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Angels and Androgynes – Fantastical Beings in Modern Fiction

Course Times & Enrolment

This course is currently unavailable.

Course Summary

The mundane reality of modern life has created a desire among writers and readers for characters who break all the rules – defying our normal categories of gender and age, nature and sexuality. From the Modernists of the early 20th century to the Urban Goth fantasists of today, we’ll explore this richly subversive theme. Authors include Virginia Woolf, Djuna Barnes, Truman Capote, Isak Dinesen, Graham Greene, Patrick White, Angela Carter and Tanith Lee.

Course Details

Pre-requisites for enrolment

No previous knowledge or study is required, although some interest in and knowledge of contemporary fiction is an advantage. Awareness of 20th century debates around gender and sexuality is useful but not essential.

Content of Course

1.  Who (or What) Is That?! Introduction to main themes with short readings and film clips.

2. Same Person, Different Sex (Virginia Woolf, Orlando).

3. Dangerous Attractions (Djuna Barnes, Nightwood).

4. Boys Will Be Girls (Truman Capote, Other Voices, Other Rooms).

5. Ariel Variations (Isak Dinesen, Anecdotes of Destiny).

6. Outrageous at Any Age (Graham Greene, Travels with My Aunt).

7. Sex of the Angels (Patrick White, The Twyborn Affair I).

8. Wishing on a Star (Patrick White, The Twyborn Affair II).

9. Spreading Your Wings (Angela Carter, Nights at the Circus).

10. Cities of Desire (Tanith Lee, Cruel Pink).

Teaching method(s)

All sessions will be a mixture of lectures and group discussions – with handouts of questions for discussion given a week in advance. Classes will be supplemented by DVD clips where appropriate. Students will be encouraged (but not required) to give short individual presentations on specific points of interest.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  • Identify contrasting literary styles and national schools;

  • Compare different portrayals of sexuality and gender;

  • Locate literary works within a cultural and social context;

  • Describe the impact of social forces on artistic creation;

  • Relate 20th and 21st century fiction to contemporary issues.


Core Readings

  • Barnes, Djuna (2007) Nightwood, Faber & Faber, London

  • Capote, Truman (2004) Other Voices, Other Rooms, Penguin Modern Classics

  • Carter, Angela (1994) Nights at the Circus, Vintage Classics, London

  • Dinesen, Isak (2001) Anecdotes of Destiny, Penguin Modern Classics, London

  • Greene, Graham (1999) Travels with My Aunt, Vintage Classics, London

  • Lee, Tanith (2013) Cruel Pink, Immanion Press, Northampton

  • White, Patrick (1995) The Twyborn Affair, Vintage Classics, London

  • Woolf, Virginia (2019) Orlando. Penguin Modern Classics, London

Class Handouts

Lecture notes and discussion questions for all sessions. Supplementary reading from literary and sociological texts, as appropriate.


If you have questions regarding the course or enrolment, please contact COL Reception at Paterson's Land by email or by phone 0131 650 4400.

Student support

If you have a disability, learning difficulty or health condition which may affect your studies, please let us know by ticking the 'specific support needs' box on your course application form. This will allow us to make appropriate adjustments in advance and in accordance with your rights under the Equality Act 2010. For more information please visit the Student Support section of our website.