E 343L • Backgrounds of Modern Lit-W
5:00 PM-6:30 PM
In his 1905 preface to Major Barbara, George Bernard Shaw speaks of an intellectual "world movement," with proponents from Darwin to Nietzsche, that had altered the scientific and philosophical thought of the nineteenth century and was in the process of transforming the literature of the next century as well. In this course, we will examine some of the central thinkers and texts of the 1800s and early 1900s that helped to lay the intellectual groundwork for the revolution in literary form and content known as Modern Literature. Ranging across science, philosophy, psychology, and politics, we will look at how a series of revolutionary ideas transformed contemporary notions of morality, consciousness, and even time and space themselves and how these intellectual developments ultimately shaped and were reflected in the new literary structures and thematics of the twentieth century. Major thinkers to be addressed in this class include Marx, Darwin, Nietzsche, and Freud, with background readings on their precursors, peers, and inheritors. For our literary readings we will consider work across genres, with a special emphasis on dramatic literature as a tradition particularly engaged with philosophy and social thought. A background in philosophy is not required, and the course assumes no prior study in this area.
Attendance and participation 15%; Two short essays (5 pages each) 25%+25%; One eight-page essay 35%
Thinkers: Marx, The Communist Manifesto, Das Kapital; Darwin, On the Origin of Species, The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals; Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy, Beyond Good and Evil; Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams, Civilization and Its Discontents; Course Reader with selections from Kant, Hegel, Kierkegaard, Schopenhauer, Spencer, Bergson, Jung, and Wittgenstein. Authors: Shaw, Major Barbara; Ibsen, Brand; Strindberg, A Dream Play; Beckett, Waiting for Godot; Ionesco, The Chairs; Jarry, Ubu Roi; Brecht, Mother Courage; Stein, Four Saints in Three Acts; Selections from Eliot, Pound, Woolf, Joyce, Faulkner, Kafka, Rilke, Yeats, Proust.