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Martin Kevorkian, Chair CAL 226, Mailcode B5000, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-4991

Spring 2009

E 343L • Backgrounds of Modern Literature

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
34390 MWF
12:00 PM-1:00 PM
par 204

Course Description

A Century of the Avant-Garde--

This course will cover the avant-garde, or those movements in the modern and post-modern periods that sought to integrate art and everyday life in radical ways. A number of recent critics have sharply distinguished this effort from the aestheticist desire--more commonly associated with modernism--to seal off art in a separate, autonomous realm away from the perceived ravages of society, politics, and especially mass culture.

Some attention will be paid to the history of the term "avant-garde" in the arts, which begins with Saint-Simon, especially the period around the turn of the century represented by Alfred Jarry's Ubu Roi. But the bulk of the course will be readings in the original manifestoes and texts of artists and critics like Walter Benjamin, Bertolt Brecht, Andre Breton, Guy Debord, Filippo Marinetti, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Malcolm McLaren, Tristan Tzara, and Raoul Vaneigem, along with movements like Futurism (Italian and Russian), Dada, Surrealism, and the Lettrist and Situationist Internationals. Primary literature will be included, such as Brecht's plays and Breton's fiction. Some secondary critical work will be included as well, to help make the history of these developments more coherent, such as Greil Marcus' Lipstick Traces (on Dada, the Lettrists and Situationsts, and English punk), and (in small doses) Charles Russell's Poets, Prophets, & Revolutionaries.

Grading Policy

Written work: Three 7-page papers with substantial revision of the first two (85% of grade). Your grade will also include oral reports: each student will make one brief presentation on the assigned reading and some subject of interest to the student.


Course packet
Bertolt Brecht, Threepenny Opera
Andre Breton, Nadja
Greil Marcus, Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century


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