British Literature After 1900

ENG 335: British Literature After 1900: Nazi Terror and the Literature of Loss      

Spring 2021                                                                                 `       Office: Kuy 714

Format: Asynchronous                                                         Office Hours: W&F: 2 – 3

Instructor: Nandini Chandra (

Course Description (Ethics Focus 30 %)

The German bombings during the second World War created a situation in which children based in London had to be separated from their parents, and evacuated to the countryside. Before this domestic dislocation happened, the Kindertransport project had rescued 10,000 children from Nazi Germany and sent them to England. According to Donald Winnicott, the pioneering British child psychoanalyst, the domestic dislocation of children was far worse than if the children had died in the bombings. The class’s ethical focus is based on discussing this provocative idea of preferring death over natal separation.

This course focuses on narratives of childhood obstinacy, intransigence, and destructiveness in post-war British literature and film, examined through the lens of British child psychoanalysis. This psychoanalytic framework  builds on children’s fantasies of violence and destruction as the very basis of restoring their psychological health.  The question it asks is whether we can look at fiction as an arena for exploring scenarios of childish “acting out” and regressive behavior through which to get a better grasp of the maladies affecting the world as well as their possible cures. How is loss a better teacher than winning?

Required Readings and Viewings

René Clément (1952). Forbidden Games. 102 mins

Muriel Spark (1961). The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

John Boorman (1987). Hope and Glory. 113 mins.

Fiona Opie and Peter Opie (2013). Children’s Games in Street and Playground. excerpts

W G Sebald (2001). Austerlitz

Julie Summers (2011). When the Children Came Home: Stories of Wartime Evacuees

The Holocaust Encyclopedia. “Kindertransport: 1938-40.”

Our readings and activities will be directed towards fulfilling the following Student Learning Outcomes:

  1. Demonstrate knowledge of the violent history of the British empire and its participation in World War II, and how this violence backfired on its most vulnerable child-subjects: how does this internal violence become the foundation for child psychotherapy.
  2. Demonstrate an increased capacity to analyze childhood as the site upon which gendered and sexual identities are formed.
  3. Demonstrate an ability to identify the ethical issues that arise in connection with creating and consuming texts from the Empire.
  4. Demonstrate a capacity to apply relevant frameworks for ethical deliberation to make judgments regarding the ethical issues intrinsic to traumatic childhood memoirs.

Course Requirements:

Weekly Quizzes

Oral Presentations with Peer-Reflections via Google doc

Mid-Semester Paper on Ethical Issues (1000 words)

Final Essay (1000 words)