David W. Huntsperger
Investigates the period of American literary modernism (1900 to WW II). Topics include nationalism, migration, race, gender, and the impact of the visual arts on literary modernism, as well as the relation between modernity/modernization (social, economic, and technological transformation) and modernism (revolution in literary style).
For AUTUMN 2007: American Modernism: Experiments in Literature, Life and Politics. In the years between the First and Second World Wars, modern American literature flourished. As the nation was undergoing the last stages of industrialization, writers were busy reinventing the praxis of American literature. Avant-garde writings challenged older notions of representation, of what language and subject matter were appropriate for literature. While some authors lamented the dissolution of traditional values in the modern era, others celebrated new possibilities for social justice and racial and sexual equality. In one way or another, all of the authors of this era responded to the rapidly changing social conditions in which they lived. Thus, modernist texts register not only aesthetic developments, but also the technological, economic, social and political upheavals of the day.
In this course, we will use modern literature as a means to study American culture in the first half of the twentieth century. We will pay close attention to both formal literary developments and to the social context for these developments. In other words, we’ll be thinking about the ways that modern culture and modern literature are mutually illuminating. Although we’ll be reading some fiction in this course (shorter works by Zora Neale Hurston and William Faulkner, among others), the main focus will be on poetry, and particularly on experimental writings by poets like Gertrude Stein, William Carlos Williams, T.S. Eliot and Jean Toomer. From the expatriate avant-garde to the Harlem Renaissance to the populist writing of the 1930s, this course will provide a broad introduction to modern American literature and its cultural contexts.
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