Explore the ways in which key 20th-century authors experimented with new forms and themes to capture the fast-changing world around them.

Featured articles

  • Waste Lands

    Sounds in The Waste Land: voices, rhythms, music

    The Waste Land is crowded with voices and music, from ancient Hindu and Buddhist scripture to the popular songs of the 1920s. Katherine Mullin listens to the sounds of T S Eliot's poem.

    Read More

    Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway

    Professor Elaine Showalter explores modernity, consciousness, gender and time in Virginia Woolf’s ground-breaking work, Mrs Dalloway. The film is shot around the streets of London, as well as at the British Library and at Gordon Square in Bloomsbury where Virginia and her siblings lived in the early 20th century. The film offers rare glimpses into the manuscript draft of the novel.

    Read More
    Banner

    An Inspector Calls and J B Priestley’s political journey

    Alison Cullingford explores how J B Priestley's childhood in Bradford and experiences during two world wars shaped his socialist beliefs and fueled the anger of his play An Inspector Calls, a work that revolves around ideas of social responsibility and guilt.

    Read More
    Banner

    A Punchdrunk approach to making theatre

    Punchdrunk are a company that rejects the passive obedience of traditional theatregoing. Peter Higgin explores how their work is constructed, from the selection of source material to considering the role of the audience.

    Read More
  • An introduction to The Bell Jar

    An introduction to The Bell Jar

    Sarah Churchwell examines how The Bell Jar critiques the expectations and limitations placed on young women in the 1950s – and how these expectations and limitations have shaped the novel’s reception.

    Read More

    An introduction to The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories

    Chris Power examines how Angela Carter’s collection of reworked fairy tales is a unique, disruptive work that places gender politics centre-stage and refuses to be easily categorised.

    Read More
    Zadie Smith

    Zadie Smith on The Buddha of Suburbia

    When Zadie Smith encountered The Buddha of Suburbia as a teenager, she found in its description of multiracial South London suburbs an image of her own experience. Here she remembers her first reading of the novel and describes how, on rereading it as an adult, she continues to appreciate Hanif Kureishi's sense of mischief and his depictions of race and class.

    Read More
    Santanu Das

    'Dulce Et Decorum Est', a close reading

    Santanu Das examines the crafting of one of Owen’s most poignant poems, ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’, and shows how Owen’s war poems evoke the extreme sense-experience of the battlefield.

    Read More

Themes

Explore key themes in 20th-century literature

Art, music and popular culture

From riots at the ballet to punk rock fanzines, discover the music, art and popular culture that shook the world in the 20th century.

Read More
Creating the modern

Capturing and creating the modern

Modernist writers broke new ground by experimenting with new forms and themes. From everyday life, perception and time to the kaleidoscopic and fractured nature of modern life, discover the ways in which these writers created and captured the modern.

Read More
Gender and sexuality

Gender and sexuality

From Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, E M Forster’s Maurice and Shelagh Delaney’s A Taste of Honey to Sylvia Plath’s journals and Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber, discover how literature explored, questioned and exploded traditional ideas of gender roles and sexuality.

Read More
fantasy and fairy tale

Fantasy and fairy tale

From subversive fairy tales to gothic nightmares, explore how 20th-century writers used fantasy to analyse and question the real world around them.

Read More

People

Explore iconic authors of the 20th century

Explore key 20th century literary works

Explore key 20th century literary works

Birthday Letters

Created by: Ted Hughes

Birthday Letters, a collection of 88 poems by the British poet Ted Hughes, was published to public and critical ...

The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories

Created by: Angela Carter

The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories is a 1979 collection of short fiction by the British writer Angela Carter. Each ...

The Buddha of Suburbia

Created by: Hanif Kureishi

The Buddha of Suburbia (1990) is a bestselling novel by the British writer Hanif Kureishi. Its main protagonist is a ...