Paul A Jaussen
Experiments in fiction and poetry. Novels by Joyce, Woolf, Lawrence, and others; poetry by Eliot and Yeats and others.
Paradoxes of the New: British Modernism, 1900-22
In this course we will study a number of texts that constitute early British modernism, moving from the impressionist narratives of the late 19th-century to the high modernist trilogy of works published in1922: James Joyce’s Ulysses, T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, and Virginia Woolf’s Jacob’s Room. As you can tell from this list, our approach will be necessarily international: Joyce was from Dublin; Eliot, from St. Louis. Joseph Conrad, who we’ll also read, was born in Poland. We will also examine key philosophical texts from the period to trace their influence on the literary world. In other words, our focus is national, but our approach will be interdisciplinary and comparative.
As we read, we will pay particular attention to artistic experimentation and the way those formal developments result in a number of paradoxes. These paradoxes largely turn on the problem of “modernism” itself. Simply put, what does it mean to be modern? How does one, in Ezra Pound’s words, “make it new”? And what happens when your new thing becomes old, or, as this class’s very existence attests, institutionalized and canonical? Does modernism necessarily destroy itself?
Exact readings to be determined, but you can expect to see some formally, conceptually, and philosophically demanding works. Unfortunately, we will not have the time to read Ulysses in its entirety. Students should be prepared to actively discuss the readings, write two short papers, develop those papers into a final essay, collaborate on a group project, and, if required, take reading quizzes.
Student learning goals
General method of instruction
Class assignments and grading