Suggested Readings

By #Saf Ou

  • Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed (psychopeda)
  • Karl Rogers, Freedom to Learn (psychopeda)
  • Anthony Sampson, Who Runs This Place and Anatomy of Britain ( Brit Civ)
  • Noam Chomsky, Syntactic Structures (linguistics, Manufacturing Consent (Brit Civ)
  • A.C Bradley, Shakespearian Tragedies (Eng Lit)
  • The Last of the Provincials: The American Novel from 1915-1925 (Am Lit)
  • James Fennimore Cooper, The Leatherstocking Tales (Am Civ)
  • John Campbell, The Iron Lady (Brit Civ)

4th year Syllabus

By #Saf Ou

Am Civ:

  • US in the First World War, Wilsonian World Order
  • Post-war America, reactions to war, invention of the automobile, rural exodus
  • The Roaring Twenties: booming industry, consumerism, jazz age, sexual revolution, immigration, the film industry
  • Reaction to change: fundamentalism, racism, isolationism, the Prohibition
  • The Wall Street Crash: Americans feel betrayed, Hoover fails the nation
  • Roosevelt and The New Deal
  • World War Two: the move from Isolationism to interventionism, Roosevelt brings Wilsonian New World Order to life
  • The Cold War: causes and consequences.

 Brit Civ:

  • History of the Labour party up until World War Two
  • Labour in Power in 1945: achievements, setbacks, why did Labour lose in 1951?
  • The Post-War consensus: its principles, how it was maintained and how it fell apart
  • The British political system: parliament, the monarchy, political parties, lobbies, electoral system
  • The British decline: economic, political and social
  • Thatcherism: what it means, how it changed Britain, its effects on today’s society
  • New Labour: how Labour changed from 1979 to 1997, Tony Blair and the Media
  • Mass Media: its history, its impact on today’s society, its dangers.
  • The British Society: class system, educational system, life opportunities, immigration and its effects.

For literature, we deal with the movement and genre that the works belong to, their author, the themes, characters and style of writing.

Am Lit: teachers select two works from the following:

  • The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • The Glass Menagerie, Tennessee Williams
  • The Wasteland, T.S. Eliot

English Lit: teachers select two of these Shakespearian plays or all three:

  • Hamlet
  • Macbeth
  • Twelfth Night

African lit: teachers select two from:

  • Mine Boy, John Abrahams
  • A Walk in the Night, Alex La Guma
  • A Grain of Wheat, N’gugi Wa Thiongo


  • Principles of Scientific Methodology
  • Saussure and the birth of Linguistics, Structuralism
  • Franz Boaz, Sapir and Whorf, Linguistics in America
  • Leonard Bloomfield
  • Noam Chomsky and Mentalism, Generative Grammar
  • Sociolinguistics: social and regional dialects, dialect vs language, pidgins and creoles


  • What is Learning?
  • Behaviourist school and method: Pavlov, Skinner, Ausubel
  • Cognitivist school and method: Kohler, Piaget
  • Humanist school and method: Paulo Freire, Karl Rogers
  • How do we learn?
  • Intelligence: its definitions and how it is tested (IQ tests etc.)
  • Memory: memory problems, how to overcome them
  • Motivation: Abraham Maslow’s pyramid of needs. Good and bad anxiety
  • Teacher-student relationship
  • Obstacles to learning: badly organized program, incompetent teaching, bad classroom atmosphere
  • Classroom dynamics: the reject, the star of the class, the independent learner
  • What makes a good teacher?

Get Friendly with the Author

by #Saf Ou

Remember that the piece of literature you are studying was written by a human being who actually lived, breathed and died on this earth! This person had feelings and troubles and headaches and colds, they fell in love and had children and they were real! Find a way to discover the author or poet, research them on the internet read their biographies and autobiographies, look at their pictures. In literary theory, it is believed by some that a writer’s work is only the reflection of his own life and his surroundings. Let me provide you with some examples:

F. Scott Fitzgerald loved and lived for his wife Zelda. His motivation for writing was to make money so he could afford to marry this beautiful, mysterious woman. This was in the 1920’s in America, Zelda was a flapper (kind of women who wore short skirts, had short hair and loved to party…) and Fitzgerald was always running around taking her to all the glamorous parties. His adventures with this lady in part inspired The Great Gatsby, he was a mix of Jay Gatsby and Nick Carraway. He had a little girl called Francis Scottie that he adored. And when Zelda finally broke down and slowly lost her mind from the pressures of the glamorous life she loved, she became the inspiration for Nicole in Tender Is the Night. You see the difference it makes once you know these things? Type F. Scott Fitzgerald on Google, get to know him as a person, and I guarantee you will enjoy reading his work more, and you’ll understand it better.

Charlotte Bronte was an orphan, having lost her mother very young, much like her character Jane Eyre. She, like Jane, went to a very strict, miserable school almost identical to Lowood, and in this very school two of her sisters fell ill and died from the terrible conditions just like Helen Burns in the novel. Bronte fell in love when she was studying abroad with a man who inspired the character of Edward Rochester. These were the things that helped her construct her fiction, because, if you remember the (boring) philosophy lessons from high school, imagination is basically building and creating things that are based on stuff you’ve already seen and experienced. Only God can create something never seen before!

Do you notice something funny about the examples above? The best writing is provoked by an author’s experience with the person they love! Bronte had her Mr Rochester (though she never married hers), F. Scott Fitzgerald had Zelda for inspiration. D.H Lawrence wrote Sons and Lovers in an effort to understand his relationship with the mother he adored, and T.S Eliot wrote the Wasteland when his marriage to Vivienne Haigh-Wood was at its worst. Writing is all about digging into one’s deepest emotions, darkest troubles and brightest hopes to create something beautiful. Next time you read something, try to understand what pushed the writer to put that piece of work out there for you to read.

More coming soon!

An Illustratred History of the USA

This is an easy to download, lite version, of Bryan O’Callagan’s An Illustratred History of the USA for Challenge University Group.


Melodrama and Modernity

Melodrama and Modernity: Film and Culture by Ben Singer (2001)


How to study Literature

BY #Saf Ou

Most students feel quite daunted when they are faced with the task of reading classic novels like Fitzgerald’s ‘The Great Gatsby’ or poems like Eliot’s ‘The Waste Land’. That frustrating feeling you get when you can’t understand half the words on the page, then once you’ve checked the dictionary and think you’ve understood you discover that the entire passage is metaphoric or a symbol for something else? We’ve all been through it, remember the Valley of Ashes in Gatbsy? Part of the issue is that unfortunately, we have -at least the majority of us- not grown up reading or loving literature. We associate novels and poems with cold, dingy classrooms, strict or incompetent teachers and worst of all, exams. The trick, my friends, is to see literature as something else, to redefine it in your mind so that the images it conjures up is holding a book in which the writer is saying what you have always thought and felt, and the story feels like it is speaking to you. This journal will provide you with tips I hope you find useful in your quest to tolerate, like, or maybe love your literature modules.


…/… by #Saf Ou

One of the things that can make reading distasteful is that you just cannot empathise with the things the writer says, and the reading you do feels superficial and forced. Let me give you an example; you are holding Jane Eyre in your hands and you just don’t understand why she keeps yapping about nature and the weather, you are frustrated by the heavy-handed language Bronte uses, it all gets a bit boring. The solution? Understand what Romanticism is all about. When the Bronte sisters were penning works like Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte), Britain was in the process of a revolutionary change: the Industrial Revolution. As farms and agriculture were abandoned for factories and manual labour, Britain’s green valleys and marshes and woods were being eliminated and replaced by cold, hard stone and chimneys belching black smoke. At the same time, a people that had so far been very religious was suddenly starting to question the existence of God at all, and certainly doubted the credibility of the Bible and Christianity in general. On the philosophical plane, the Enlightenment era lead to arguments that one shouldn’t be guided by emotions but by pure logic. Also -and this does justify Charlotte Bronte’s use of heavy language- among the growing middle class to which she belonged, it became fashionable to speak French and one had to have an extensive vocabulary in English and speak with a genteel accent. And of course, the very few female writers who managed to make it at the time felt the need to prove that they were just as clever and witty as the men. If you can’t picture this context, if you can’t imagine Charlotte Bronte sitting in a dark room in the British Midlands, contemplating the dark starry night outside and dreaming by candle light, you can’t possibly love the book. If we cross the Atlantic and try to apply the same idea to American literature, we can also improve our knowledge there. Let’s take Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn for instance. It was written in the late 19th century, when America was just over one 100 years old. The country was still relatively young and was looking for its identity, you can see this in any piece of literature from that time. It had just been through its first and only Civil War between Northerners and Southerners, over such matters as slavery and trade. The North and South were now at peace, but still disliked each other and had stereotypes about each other, spoke and thought differently, and of course as in any conflict, each side was convinced that it was right. One of Twain’s goals was to introduce the real South to Northerners, in a brave effort to reconcile the two halves of America. He wrote Huck Finn in the Southern dialect, went into great detail when describing the scenery in the South, described its people in great details, from what they wore to what they ate! Also, just as the Bronte’s wrote in the context of Romanticism, Twain’s novels reflected a move towards Realism, which rejected the Romantics’ ideals, their use of difficult language and their flat, unrealistic characters. Just as the name suggests, Realism wanted to make sure literature wrote about real life and real people. Let’s now move in time instead of space. In the classique system, we study British Modernism in the third year and American Modernism in year four. This movement is very important, and is seen by critics as a break with the past for literature, so try to understand it to the best of your ability. Just think about when it happened for starters. We are talking about the turn of the 20th century, the start of a new millennium. The artists in Britain mostly dealt with the changes in British society and lifestyle, this new revolutionized, industrialised Britain. One of their biggest concerns was also colonialism, which Britain was so proud of but in reality it was a big sham that was making victims out of millions of people across the world. This is what you find in ‘Heart of Darkness’ by Joseph Conrad and ‘A Passage to India’ by E.M Forster. For American Modernists such as Fitzgerald, William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway, it was all about the new post-war, rich, fun-loving America that was losing all of the values that made it a great nation, and was becoming more and more obsessed with money. Of course the most remarkable thing about Modernism, friends, is not the themes all on their own, writers have always written about problems, but Modernism introduced a whole different way of writing. Stories no longer needed to have a specific beginning or end, characters didn’t need names, the story didn’t have to follow any logic or chronology, reality was no longer absolute but depended on the person telling the story. All very confusing stuff! Just remember that Modernists were inspired now by psychology and such psychoanalysts (and crazy people really…) as Sigmund Freud, so they knew that human minds and lives were not really things that followed a regular pattern like books usually showed. The Modernists also witnessed what wars, greed and hatred could do to humanity, life didn’t make any sense anymore, and it didn’t follow a specific logic. So their writing reflected what they saw in life and their confusion over all of this change. My conclusion for this little essay is that one of the keys to understanding literary works is to imagine them in the right space and time. This is why every year, we study both literature and civilization, and the two are always complementary. So my tip to you is to make links between lit and civ whenever possible, and always place any piece of art you are reading in its context!