Category Archives: 20th – 21st Centuries

“A colossal accident”: Reflections on Discovering Faulkner at KCL

By Ahmed Honeini

KCL alumnus Dr Ahmed Honeini discusses his formative experience first reading William Faulkner ten years ago, alongside the state of Faulkner Studies in the UK today.

In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, James Gatz, “a penniless young man without a past,” finds himself in the house of his love Daisy Fay “by a colossal accident.” The Great Gatsby has been one of my favourite books since high school. In 2012, as a second-year English with Film Studies undergraduate at King’s College London, I took the module “Twentieth Century American Fiction, 1900-1945: Realisms and Modernisms” for the sole purpose of rereading and studying Fitzgerald’s masterwork at university level. I am ashamed to admit that I did not have much of an interest in American literature at that point; aside from Fitzgerald, my literary infatuations at the time were early modern drama and European modernism. However, on that same American fiction module, I discovered the work of William Faulkner, and specifically his 1929 novel The Sound and the Fury, “a colossal accident” which was to change the course of my professional and personal life.

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New Book Releases: ‘Samuel Beckett’s Legacies in American Fiction’

By James Baxter

Written by London-based independent scholar James Baxter, Samuel Beckett’s Legacies in American Fiction: Problems in Postmodernism was published by Palgrave Macmillan in December 2021, as part of their series ‘New Interpretations of Beckett in the Twenty First Century.’

What drew you to this subject?

At the outset, I think it was an intuited connection between a lot of the fiction that I was reading and enjoying at the time; Beckett of course, but also American writers like Donald Barthelme, Robert Coover, Thomas Pynchon, etc. A lot of headache-inducing postmodern stuff. While there is certainly no shortage of scholarship on Beckett’s relation to the more theoretical body of postmodernism, I was quite struck by the absence of any sustained work on literary postmodernism and the way Beckett skewers the work of periodisation by serving as an end but also a beginning for this new paradigm (not unlike the kind of stalled narrative sequences that a reader encounters in his mid-century Trilogy).

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Red Light, Green Light

By Jane Elliott

The Korean TV drama Squid Game is Netflix’s most popular show ever, having reached the number one spot in ninety countries. It tells the story of a diverse group of characters, all heavily in debt, who agree to compete in a series of traditional children’s games with untraditional stakes: losers are killed and the final survivor takes the entire jackpot. Continue reading Red Light, Green Light

The Female Character and French Aristocracy in Edith Wharton’s ‘The Custom of the Country’ and ‘The Reef’

By Samantha Seto

In Edith Wharton’s American novels, the heroines are part of the French aristocratic milieu. The American expatriates, Undine Spragg and Anna Leath, are situated in France and characterized by attributes that suggest French influence through literary elements such as narration and dialogue in The Custom of the Country (1913) and The Reef (1912). Wharton reveals an implicit feminism in a patriarchal society and thematic marital relations drive the plot, which indicates the conventional role for women dedicated to the social traditions of the aristocracy. The French have their own code of manners in society, idealised aesthetic of female beauty, and their honour resides in the social expectations of probity. In my narratological analysis of character identity, French cultural norms and the common French aesthetic blends into the portrayal of the primary female characters. Wharton interweaves a French theme into the narratives which shape the portraits representing aristocratic women and particularly their romantic conflicts that arise at the turn of the century. In the novels, Wharton establishes heroines characterised by attributes that belong to the French aristocracy.

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2021 Ellen Craft Essay Prize Awarded to PhD Student Katie Arthur

By Professor Mark Turner, PGR Lead

It is a pleasure to announce to the KCL English community that the Scottish Association for the Study of America (SASA) has awarded the 2021 Ellen Craft Essay Prize to one of our PhD students, Katie Arthur, for her brilliant essay, ‘Arousing Disgust: Visceral Configurations of Obscenity through Literal, Literary, and Governmental Bodies in William S. Burroughs’ Naked Lunch (1959)’.

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