ENGL315-24S2 (C) Semester Two 2024

The Contemporary Novel

30 points

Start Date: Monday, 15 July 2024
End Date: Sunday, 10 November 2024
Withdrawal Dates
Last Day to withdraw from this course:
  • Without financial penalty (full fee refund): Sunday, 28 July 2024
  • Without academic penalty (including no fee refund): Sunday, 29 September 2024


The novelist and philosopher Jean Paul Sartre once described the experience of the contemporary as like looking out the back of a moving car: the present, glimpsed through the side windows, appears as a blur, but as one looks through the rear window the blur begins to take the forms we recognise as constituents of contemporary experience, now seen with the aid of perspective. To study the contemporary novel is to read for what the poet T.S. Eliot called the ‘pastness’ of the present, which involves reading for the ways in which the novel form has been, and will continue to be, used to question, critique, and imagine the contemporary.The course will look primarily at novels from the Twentieth Century, but will conclude with a look towards recent twenty-first century fiction.

We will examine a diverse selection of contemporary novels that respond to social, political, economic, cultural and environmental challenges. This will include examples from literary modernism, postmodernism and the post-colonial world, alongside acclaimed 21st century works of fiction. Some attention will be paid to earlier novels that have been key to the historical development of the form.

This course can be used towards an English major or minor. BA students who major in English would normally take at least two 100-level 15 point ENGL courses (which must include at least one of the following: ENGL117, ENGL102 or ENGL103), at least three 200-level 15 point ENGL courses, and at least two 300-level 30 point ENGL courses. Please see the BA regulations  or a student advisor for more information.

Learning Outcomes

  • In this course you will learn:
  • an ability to consider both literary and cultural ways of reading a selection of twentieth-century fiction;
  • familiarity with a range of major twentieth-century novels and appreciation of the conditions of each novel’s production;
  • an understanding of the way twentieth-century historical and cultural movements have shaped literature and literary criticism;
  • experience constructing critical arguments, with a focus on the comparative literary analysis essay
    • University Graduate Attributes

      This course will provide students with an opportunity to develop the Graduate Attributes specified below:

      Critically competent in a core academic discipline of their award

      Students know and can critically evaluate and, where applicable, apply this knowledge to topics/issues within their majoring subject.

      Employable, innovative and enterprising

      Students will develop key skills and attributes sought by employers that can be used in a range of applications.

      Globally aware

      Students will comprehend the influence of global conditions on their discipline and will be competent in engaging with global and multi-cultural contexts.


Any 30 points at 200 level from ENGL, or
any 60 points at 200 level from the Schedule V of the BA.

Timetable 2024

Students must attend one activity from each section.

Lecture A
Activity Day Time Location Weeks
01 Tuesday 10:00 - 12:00 Jack Erskine 446
15 Jul - 25 Aug
9 Sep - 20 Oct
Lecture B
Activity Day Time Location Weeks
01 Thursday 11:00 - 13:00 Jack Erskine 446
15 Jul - 25 Aug
9 Sep - 20 Oct

Course Coordinator / Lecturer

Paul Millar


Nicholas Wright


Assessment Due Date Percentage 
Attendance and participation 10%
In-class presentation 20%
A comparative essay 30%
Take-home test 40%

Textbooks / Resources

Because of the substantial reading load, students are strongly advised to read as many novels as possible before classes commence. Class discussions will proceed on the assumption that all students have read the text.

Text books (in order of study):

• F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby (1925)
• Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse (1927)
• Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited (1945)
• Tim Winton, Cloudstreet (1991)
• Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea (1966)
• Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale (1985)
• Toni Morrison, Beloved (1987)
• Sally Rooney, Normal People (2018)

Course links

Library portal

Indicative Fees

Domestic fee $1,687.00

International fee $7,900.00

* All fees are inclusive of NZ GST or any equivalent overseas tax, and do not include any programme level discount or additional course-related expenses.

For further information see Humanities .

All ENGL315 Occurrences

  • ENGL315-24S2 (C) Semester Two 2024