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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Jacinthe Ahmed Assaad
C LIT 362
Seattle Campus

Topics in Modern Literature

Explores topics in literature and cultures of the modern world (approximately 1800-present) across national and regional cultures, such as particular movements, authors, genres, themes, or problems.

Class description

Aesthetics of Modernity

Characterized by industrial production, a market economy, and mass consumption on the one hand, and by a questioning faith, disenchantment with the world, and disillusion in humanity, on the other, the twentieth century has created a skeptical (wo)man constantly searching for meaning—especially since Nietzsche’s madman declared God’s death. Our existence is inconsequential and derisory, and proved to be inhumane. Buried under the ashes of a mushroom cloud and the smell of decomposition¬—both human and divine, we strive to break free from a past replete with convention and conformity, and often horror. The aesthetics of modernity attempt to redefine our world with new vision, new shapes, and sometimes, new memories and new language. Authors and artists escaped the boundaries of tradition, in search for the essence of existence and experience. Nothing was sacred, and every limit could and should be breached. Standing alone, (wo)man could no longer find comfort in a transcendental truth or reality, and in T.S. Eliot’s words: “I can connect / Nothing with nothing.? Reality was retraced, erased, and retraced again, ultimately fragmented, only to be cast as an illusion of being, haunted by the promise of the unreachable. This illusion taints our existence with a sense of absurdity, that, in itself, becomes meaningful. Center stage is man in all his self-assigned glory, looking more like a parasite than a god. His pathos is derisive, while he reaches for an unattainable grandeur. All efforts are in vain: they are impelled by man’s hubris and they eventually prove futile. How does the self then define itself in the face of society, be it a society plagued by theist determinism, scientific and technological progress, and the ensuing sense of alienation, or the atheist disposition of an anthropomorphic world? Is the reflection of the self through the modernist glass a mere fragment of our subjectivity? How do we deal with the truth of the horrors of our wars, and our inhumane nature? What are the aesthetics of the fragment? Of the absurd? Of memory? Ultimately, how has the modern become timeless? In this class, we will explore, through select artists (painters and architects), filmmakers and writers (novelists, poets and playwrights), how the aesthetics of modernity came to shape a century that has brought the tradition and the classics of the Avant-garde. Primary readings will be complemented by theoretical and critical readings, as well as some art history. All readings are in English, and films have subtitles.

Required readings:

Please make sure you buy the specific editions mentioned. The poems will be provided in electronic format.

Beckett, Samuel. Endgame. (ISBN: 9780802150240, Grove Press). Duras, Marguerite. Hiroshima, Mon Amour. (ISBN: 9780802131041, Grove Press). Eliot, T. S. “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock? and selections from “The Wasteland.? Ionesco, Eugène. The Bald Soprano. (ISBN: 9780802143181, Grove Press). Kafka, Franz. The Metamorphosis. (ISBN: 9780805210576, Schocken). Pirandello, Luigi. Six Characters In Search of An Author. (ISBN: 9780140189223, Penguin Classics). Plath, Sylvia. “Lady Lazarus? and “Daddy.? Wallace, Stevens. “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Bird? and “The Emperor of Ice Cream.? Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. (ISBN: 9780151009985, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).


Hiroshima, Mon Amour. Dir. Alain Resnais, 1959. The Seventh Seal. Dir. Ingmar Bergman, 1957. Un Chien Andalou. Dir. Luis Buñuel, 1929.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading

Participation: 15% Presentation: 15% Photo-essay: 20% (Take home) Midterm: 25% Final essay: 25%

The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Jacinthe Ahmed Assaad
Date: 09/03/2013