A critical survey of the techniques of literary representation of political struggles and cultural conflicts. From 19th Century Realism and the "Two Nations," through colonial and postcolonial struggles, into the conflicts and crises of the twenty-first century, and the modes through which they find their expression.

We want to engage with important texts but also with theories of representation, aesthetic manifesto, and avant-garde publications. Texts studied include both canonical novels and more contemporaray engaging with the politics of representation in fiction, several through provocative and transgressive narrative strategies.

Mary Barton (1848) by Elizabeth Gaskell, Heart of Darkness (1899) by Joseph Conrad, and Mrs Dalloway (1925) by Virginia Woolf. These three texts will be the focus of the first few sessions of the course and they are all, in different ways, very challenging reading experiences. 

In the 1980s the world of US comic book publishing was shaken up by a series of reconceptualisations of their mainstream staple of the form: the reimagining of the superhero. Arguably the most paradigmatic expression of an essentially American form, the superhero narrative found itself subject to an extended series of challenges from a new generation of writers writing from outside the USA. The most distinctive of these quickly became known for their themes, styles, and approaches to the medium; this was the British invasion of American comic books. Spearheaded by Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore, and quickly joined by Grant Morrison, Warren Ellis, Martin Millar and others, these creative efforts led to changes in core assumptions about the form which have provided ongoing challenges to its relationship with form and representation which British cultural producers have continued to make significant contributions to.

With the current proliferation of superhero narratives, driven by the still-evolving Marvel Cinematic Universe and DC Extended Universe, this course will encourage students to engage critically and analytically with the largest contemporary fictional narratives of the current era through printed, cinematic, and multimedia cultural texts. The approaches to our core material will driven by both historical and theoretical lines of inquiry and will entail reading visual and verbal registers across different media within an interdisciplinary framework.

The course's close-reading-centred approach aims to benefit students both familiar and unfamiliar with the form of the superhero narrative. 

Superhero texts under discussion will include Watchmen by Alan Moore and David Lloyd, The Sandman by Neil Gaiman, Dave McKean et al, and the trilogy of films directed by Christopher Nolan, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and Dark Knight Rises.