E 343L • Backgrounds of Modern Literature (Honors)
11:00 AM-12:30 PM
Restricted to students admitted to the English Honors Program
Like all "isms," "modernism" is a controversial term and concept, at once richly ambiguous and reductive. At issue are its dates, practitioners, techniques, locations, politics, intentions, and consequences. While every age calls itself modern, that of "high modernism" (roughly 1890 to 1930) is the first to be deemed both "modern" and past, and so viewed through the lens of "postmodernism."
This course will explore the historical, philosophical, and cultural circumstances that produced the literature of "high modernism," primarily British and American. The background readings (chosen from among Marx, Darwin, Freud, Nietzsche, Pater, Spengler, Bergson, Frazer, et al.) and consideration of historical events and modernist movements in other art forms (e.g., atonality in music; primitivism in sculpture; postimpressionism and cubism in painting) will help to contextualize and focus our consideration of modernist literary texts. The course's organizational principle will be a set of central concepts: the decline of the West; the disappearance/death of God; the reconceptualization of such notions as time and the self; the impact of technology and urbanization; the quest among so-called "primitive" societies for vitality and values; the use of myth as a structuring principle; aestheticism; epistemological incertitude; the crisis of language; and the reaction against traditional realism and humanistic representation in the interests of a deeper and more complex expression of "reality."
Two seminar essays of approx. 4pp. 20% each
Two response papers of 1-2 pages 5% each
Term Paper of approx 10-12 pp. plus draft or outline 40%
Quality and quantity of class participation 10%
Tentative texts: Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim (Penguin, 1986); T.S. Eliot, Selected Poems (Harbrace, 1967); William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury (Vintage, 1991); Ford Madox Ford, The Good Soldier (Penguin, 1990); Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises (Simon & Schuster, 1994); James Joyce, Occasional, Critical, and Political Writing, ed. Kevin Barry (Oxford UP, 2000); The Portable James Joyce, ed. Harry Levin (Penguin, 1976); Katherine Ann Porter, Collected Short Stories (Harbrace, 1955); Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse (Harbrace, 1989); W.B. Yeats, Selected Poems (Random, 1991); Packet from Jenn's