Aspects of British Literature and Culture

Course information


Aspects of British Literature and Culture


Daniel Nyikos

Course code








Course description

Short description

The purpose of this course is to use the study of literature and culture as a teaching tool for engaging with language. We will take as our starting point the problematic notion of ‘Britishness’ and consider the issue of multiple and overlapping identities in a modern multicultural state. Each week of the course will have a specific thematic focus that will be addressed by means of mini-lessons and presentations to be given by students, including discussions based on video clips, PowerPoint presentations, music, and printed handouts.


You can work alone, in which case you will hold two mini-lessons this semester. You can work in a group of two or three people, in which case I will ask you to give three mini-lessons together. To make this course as useful and interesting for you as possible, you will be able to select topics related to contemporary British literature and culture for your mini-lesson. Themes you might consider include:

• Literature! From Charles Dickens to J. K. Rowling, from Beowulf to Agatha Christie, from William Shakespeare to J. R. R. Tolkien.

• What is British-ness? The sum of English-ness, Welsh-ness, Scottish-ness and Northern(?)-Irishness (whatever they are), or more, or less?

• Markers of identity: class; region; education; occupation; race; religion; income.

• The Establishment.

• From the British Empire to multicultural Britain.

• Music, fashion and youth sub-cultures.

• The place of high culture: the plastic arts; opera; ballet; theatre.

• From angry young men to chick lit: post-war British fiction.

• The British cinema in the ’60s (or any decade).

• Demography and democracy: two nations in one?

• The language and languages of Britain.

• The mass media: radio, television, magazines, cinema.

• Britain and Europe; Britain and America; Britain in the world.


Mini-lessons: Single presenters must give 2 mini-lessons over the course of the semester, groups must give 3 in which every group member is involved in a significant way. The mini-lesson should model a classroom activity that involves the whole class and teaches English language skills. After each mini-lesson, each presenter will be given a chance to reflect on their lesson with the group, and then we will talk about what worked well, as well as giving helpful suggestions.



Fall 2018


Requirements to get the grade

Assessment: The assessment for the course will be based on the following:

Mini-lessons: 40%, including a lesson plan for a 45-minute class to be handed out on the day of the mini-lesson and a 15 minute activity.

Class participation: 60%, including participation in mini-lessons and providing constructive feedback.

Reading list


Suggested reading list

as appropriate to chosen topic