Cross-Cultural Coming-of-Age Narratives - EN676

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2017-18 2018-19
Canterbury Autumn
View Timetable
6 30 (15) DR S Bolaki




Not available as wild



If the Bildungsroman has been criticised for being outmoded and conservative, how do contemporary writers interrogate and expand its scope and importance? Are coming-of-age narratives merely private stories or can they be read in ways which highlight their social functions, and what kind of theoretical, aesthetic and cultural perspectives can we apply to scrutinise these functions? This module will bring together a range of texts and films from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries that can be read within and against the literary tradition of the Bildungsroman or the coming-of-age narrative. Drawing on material from the US, the Caribbean, Asia and Europe, we will spend time analysing the representation of the coming-of-age experience in terms of content and form and assess the ideological functions of the Bildungsroman in a cross-cultural context. Particular attention will be given to questions of racial and ethnic identity, migration, colonialism, memory, trauma, belonging and sexuality. We will also explore the connection of the Bildungsroman with genres such as autobiography, family memoir, young adult fiction, graphic novel, and film. Writers studied in this module include Richard Wright, Jamaica Kincaid, Sandra Cisneros, Sherman Alexie, Jhumpa Lahiri, Marjane Satrapi, and we will watch films including My Beautiful Laundrette and Bend it Like Beckham.


This module appears in:

Contact hours

30 contact hours over the term, consisting of ten 2-hour weekly seminars and a total of 5 two-hour workshops.

Method of assessment

This module can be taken by standard coursework route or by dissertation. NB: students can only take ONE MODULE by dissertation in stage 3.

Module by standard coursework:
Two essays of 3000 words each (45% for each essay, forming a total of 90%), with the remaining 10% coming from a seminar performance mark.

Module by dissertation:
Assessment will be in the form of:
1) a 500-word dissertation proposal (formative assessment and non-marked)
2) a dissertation of 6000 words (90%)
3) seminar performance mark (in accordance with the criteria published in the School of English Undergraduate Handbook (10%)

Preliminary reading

Yezierska, Anzia, (1925) Bread Givers
Wright, Richard, (1945) Black Boy
Kincaid, Jamaica, (1990) Lucy
Kingston, Maxine Hong, (1976) The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood among Ghosts
Cisneros, Sandra, (1984) The House on Mango Street
Alexie, Sherman, (2007) The Absolute True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Lahiri, Jhumpa, (2003) The Namesake
Satrapi, Marjane, (2000) Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood and the Story of a Return
Kassabova, Kapka, (2008) Street without a Name: Childhood and Other Misadventures in Bulgaria

Film Screenings:

Stephen Frears, (1985) My Beautiful Laundrette
Gurinder Chadha, (2002) Bend it Like Beckham

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:

• Critically evaluate a variety of coming-of-age narratives from the US, Caribbean, Asia, and Europe, including genres such as autobiography, short story sequence, family memoir, young adult fiction, graphic novel, and film
• Demonstrate a systematic understanding of the different literary traditions and movements out of which the texts arise, and how these in turn might be articulated within, and interrogative of, the Bildungsroman tradition
• Apply accurately a range of established theoretical, aesthetic, and cultural perspectives to the study of twentieth- and twenty-first century coming-of-age narratives
• Develop sophisticated analytical skills as well as historically situated approaches to key concepts in the field such as race/ethnicity, immigration, diaspora, memory, trauma, space, gender, colonialism, and sexuality over the last century
• Consolidate and extend their capacity to structure nuanced arguments centred on the close relationship between aesthetics and politics in literature

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

• Deploy sophisticated close reading techniques to a range of literary texts and, to a lesser extent, films, to make productive and complex comparisons between them
• Demonstrate further development of the skills necessary for participating in group discussions and giving oral presentations, including communicating ideas to specialist and non-specialist audiences
• Demonstrate an increased capacity for self-directed research and the ability to discuss, evaluate and creatively deploy secondary critical and theoretical perspectives making use of appropriate scholarly sources .
• Demonstrate an ability to frame and identify appropriate research questions and to construct original, articulate and well-substantiated arguments ).

In addition, students taking the module by dissertation will be able to:

• Marshal complex knowledge and present it clearly and logically in the substantive form of a dissertation

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