Modernity and Modernism

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An exploration of the culture of industrial capitalism called Modernity, and a survey of some of the literary work that has emerged in response to that culture, often designated by the capacious term “Modernism.” The class will begin by reading selections from three so-called “Prophets of Modernity”: Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Sigmund Freud. We will then use the framework offered by these three authors to analyze a number of literary works from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. We will read poetry by William Butler Yeats, Ezra Pound, H. D., and T. S. Eliot; fiction from Oscar Wilde, Joseph Conrad, James Joyce, D. H. Lawrence, Virginia Woolf, and Jean Rhys; drama by Samuel Beckett; and cultural criticism from Matthew Arnold, Charles Baudelaire, and Walter Benjamin. All of these authors are concerned, in one way or another, with the plight of the individual in an increasingly alienating environment, with the relations of men and women, with the dynamics of race and social class, and with the problematic role of culture in the new “modern” world. These will be our concerns as well.



Unit Essential Questions Content Skills and Processes Assessment Resources Multicultural Dimension
Modernity and Modernism

•What technological, social, and cultural factors distinguish modernity from traditional society?
•What are the formal and thematic characteristics of modernist literature?
•How are the socio-cultural lineaments of modernity reflected in Anglo-American modernist literature?

*Writings of socio-cultural critics (including Thomas Carlyle, Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, Charles Baudelaire, Friederich Nietzsche, and Walter Benjamin)
*Influential perspectives on modernity
*Formal and stylistic characteristics of class texts
*Anglo-American modernist literature, including
-Poetry by W. B. Yeats,  and T. S. Eliot
-Narratives by Oscar Wilde, Joseph Conrad,  Hemingway, and  Virginia Woolf
-Drama by Samuel Beckett
-Critical prose from Oscar Wilde, Walter Pater, T. S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf, and Chinua Achebe

*Class presentations (each student leads two per term)
*Analyze thematic meaning
*Writing assignments
*Peer review
*Write metacritical essay for each assignment
*Develop research skills and familiarity with use of primary and secondary sources

*Class presentations debriefed in conference with instructor
*All student writing assignments reviewed in conference
*Two 4-6 page analytical essays on student-selected topics; one essay requires the use of outside sources.
*One creative exercise in which students mimic themes and style of one of the writers studied in the course.
*Midterm and final exam test the ability to identify key passages in class reading and to provide brief analyses of same

*Beckett's Waiting for Godot
*Conrad's Heart of Darkness
* Dickens' Hard Times
* Hemingway's In Our Time
* Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray
* Woolf's To the Lightouse
* Lyric Poetry by W. B. Yeats and T. S. Eliot
* Class handouts of readings from Carlyle, Marx, Neitzsche, Freud, Benjamin, Wilde, Achebe, Lawrence.
* Departmental handouts on MLA format, Style, Plagiarism.

*Discussion of Conrad's Heart of Darkness in tandem with Chinua Achebe's A Vision of Africa fosters an examination of modernism and race)
*Consistent examination of questions of gender and sexual identity in modernist writing.