David T Holmberg
Introduces twentieth-century literature and contemporary literature, focusing on representative works that illustrate literary and intellectual developments since 1900.
The Transient, the Fleeting, the Contingent: The Idea of Modernity in Transatlantic Modernist and Postmodernist Literature
In the latter half of the nineteenth century French poet Charles Baudelaire famously wrote that “modernity is the transient, the fleeting, the contingent.” We are, over a hundred years later, still living in “modernity,” but how does our understanding of modernity in the twenty-first century differ from its meaning in the nineteenth? Or does it? And how can literature helps us understand the experience of living in these different “modernities”? This course is designed as an introduction to modern and postmodern literature of the twentieth-century, focusing on representative works that illustrate literary and intellectual developments since 1900. The century that separates us from Baudelaire was a time of significant and rapid change, a century of political, cultural, technological, and social upheaval and revolution. The focus of our class will be the vast and at times bewildering array of artistic responses to the conditions of modernity, of living in “modern times.” We will be considering both the conditions of modernity—such as consumption, alienation, fragmentation, etc.—as well as the different kinds of artistic responses to these conditions—stream of consciousness narration, pastiche, metafictions, etc.—as a way understanding the idea of modernity in and through twentieth century literature. Instead of moving chronologically through our texts, we will be reading pairings of modernist and postmodernist authors in order to get a better sense of the variety of responses to modernity throughout the century. This will be a challenging course, with difficult and complex texts as well as an intense reading pace. We will also be reading and engaging with some controversial topics. Our authors will likely include T.S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf, Thomas Pynchon, Angela Carter, Don DeLillo, Djuna Barnes, Ishmael Reed, Gertrude Stein, Sherwood Anderson, Jean Toomer, Jorge Luis Borges, James Joyce, Marianne Moore, Allen Ginsberg, Ernest Hemingway, John Barth, and David Lynch. Short stories, poetry, and secondary material will be available through a course pack.
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