Beyond Britishness: the Construction of Identities in Literature and Culture
Course infoSchedule
Course moduleLET-ETCENB205
Credits (ECTS)5
Language of instructionEnglish
Offered byRadboud University; Faculty of Arts; English Language and Culture;
dr. R.H. van den Beuken
Other course modules lecturer
dr. R.H. van den Beuken
Other course modules lecturer
Contactperson for the course
dr. R.H. van den Beuken
Other course modules lecturer
dr. R.H. van den Beuken
Other course modules lecturer
Academic year2023
PER 3-PER 4  (29/01/2024 to 01/09/2024)
Starting block
Course mode
Registration using OSIRISYes
Course open to students from other facultiesYes
Waiting listNo
Placement procedure-
At the end of the course, the student will be able to
• discuss and reflect on the often problematic, heterogeneous manifestations of Britishness in cultural products;
• critically analyse various interrelated aspects of cultural identities (e.g. ethnicity, language, gender) and explain the ways in which texts engage with the construction of such identities; 
• demonstrate a comprehensive awareness of current scholarly debates on cultural identities by applying relevant theoretical frameworks to interpretations of literature and other forms of cultural expression. 
During this course we will critically interrogate representations of Britishness as expressed in various cultural products, including the visual arts, film, and television, but with a particular focus on contemporary literature. We will reflect on Britishness as a fluctuating, heterogeneous, yet strongly politicised identity that is further inflected by issues such as class, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and nationality (i.e. in relation to different constituent parts of the United Kingdom). In doing so, we will employ insights from the fields of imagological, memory, (post)colonial, queer and gender studies and other relevant scholarship to analyse the politics that underlie various assertions of Britishness.

The texts that we will discuss to examine how processes of collective identity formation are articulated may vary from year to year, but previous iterations have, for example, explored postcolonial drama, poetry that contest systemic racism, and queer rewritings of the literary canon; investigated the function of contested national histories in the visual arts; as well as analysed the configurations of transcultural identities in the (post-)imperialist contexts of migration and multicultural societies, with special attention to the tensions that have arisen in the wake of the Brexit referendum.

Presumed foreknowledge
Students should have a basic understanding of literary analysis and literary theory (e.g. by completing the B1 course 'Reading Literature') and preferably have some knowledge about British history (e.g. by completing the B1 course 'British Culture & History').
Test information


Required materials
Other books/films/series that students need to acquire may vary from year to year and will be announced at the start of the course.
'A taut, gripping tale of a young woman and an Iron Age reenactment trip that unearths frightening behavior.'
Title:Ghost Wall (2018)
Author:Sarah Moss
'The collection’s title points to the underlying philosophy expressed in these poems: that earthly joy is, or ought to be, just within, but is often just beyond our reach, denied by racism, misogyny, physical cruelty and those with the class power to deny others their share of worldly goods and pleasures.'
Title:A Portable Paradise (2019)
Author:Roger Robinson
'Amidst the political conflict of Northern Ireland in the 1990s, five high school students square off with the universal challenges of being a teenager.' (via Netflix)
Title:Derry Girls (2018-22)
Author:Lisa McGee

Instructional modes
Attendance MandatoryYes


Test weight20
Test typeOral exam
OpportunitiesBlock PER 3, Block PER 3

Minimum grade

Midterm essay
Test weight30
Test typeProject
OpportunitiesBlock PER 3, Block PER 4

Minimum grade

Final essay
Test weight50
Test typeProject
OpportunitiesBlock PER 4, Block PER 4

Minimum grade