The Stranger - EN661

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2018-19 2019-20
Canterbury Spring
View Timetable
6 30 (15) DR A Padamsee




Not available as wild



This course explores the intersections between nation, narration and globalisation in the twentieth and twenty-first century novel. It will focus this exploration through textual representations of 'the stranger', a figure theorised since the beginning of the twentieth century as symptomatic of modernity in European cultures, and more recently by postcolonial critics as the paradigm through which the effects of globalisation are ‘encountered’ in contemporary ‘multicultural’ national and transnational spaces. Students will be encouraged to analyse the historical and conceptual relations between novel and nation and the particular ways in which the body of ‘the stranger’ has been reified through them. At the same time, they will be invited to consider ‘the stranger’ as a disorientating embodiment of distance and proximity, and to evaluate how this dynamic constructs and deconstructs the form and boundaries of the novel as a genre, and the surrounding familial, national and racial paradigms of belonging. Through discussions of the theoretical work of writers such as Georg Simmel, Freud, Fanon, Edward Said, Judith Butler, Zygmunt Bauman, and Homi Bhabha, students will be asked especially to consider the mutual effects of estrangement across gendered, racial, and colonial divides. The broad aims of the course are to problematise ‘the stranger’ as a literary means of orientating the individual and the nation; to situate the twentieth and twenty-first century novel as a symptomatic site for ‘strange encounters’; and to understand the extent to which it poses ‘strangeness’ and ‘homeliness’ as inseparable, necessary and possible acts of narration.


This module appears in:

Contact hours

10 x two-hour seminars and 10 x one-hour lectures

Method of assessment

100% Coursework: 10% seminar performance, 90% two essays of 3000 words each (45% each)

Preliminary reading

T MORRISON - 'Beloved' (1987)
A CAMUS - 'The Stranger' (1942)
K ISHIGURO - 'Never Let Me Go' (2005)

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

See the library reading list for this module (Medway)

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module students will be able to demonstrate the following subject specific learning outcomes:

1. Gain an understanding of the changing relationship between nation, narration, and globalisation in the twentieth and twenty-first century novel.
2. Be able to interpret and apply a range of theoretical concepts surrounding the ideas of 'the stranger' across a variety of regional and historical contexts, and make productive comparisons and distinctions between them.
3. Develop reasonably complex and historically situated approaches to concepts including nation, empire, the transnational, migration and diaspora, cosmopolitanism, and race over the last century.
4. Further develop the capacity to structure nuanced arguments centred on the close relationship between aesthetics and politics in modern narrative fiction.
5. Gain a sufficient understanding of the different literary traditions and movements out of which the novels arise, and how these in turn might be articulated within, and interrogative of, broader transnational and postcolonial frameworks.

On successful completion of this module students will be able to demonstrate the following generic learning outcomes:

1. An ability to apply close reading techniques to a range of literary texts and to make complex comparisons between them.
2. Development of the skills necessary for participating in group discussions and giving oral presentations.
3. An increased capacity for self-directed research and the ability to discuss, evaluate and creatively deploy secondary critical and theoretical perspectives.
4. An ability to construct original, articulate and well-substantiated arguments.

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