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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Rebecca S. Rauve
ENGL 440
Seattle Campus

Special Studies in Literature

Themes and topics offering special approaches to literature.

Class description

English 440 Course Description

The Perils of Presence: Depictions of Time in Modern and Postmodern Literature

Modern literature exhibits a tension between the attractions of immediate experience—a state of pure presence without a sense of past or future—and the value of an objective sense of history. Even as some writers depicted the blissful sense of oneness accompanying immediate states, others were asking, what becomes of time-honored traditions if too great an emphasis is given to presence? What becomes of respect for the other and the objective world? The tug-of-war between these opposing models of time continues to the present day.

In this course, we’ll examine several canonical Modernist texts through the lens of that period’s preoccupation with the pleasures—and dangers—of pure presence, and see how the debate about immediate experience versus history extends into the literature of the postmodern era. To help us understand what is meant by immediate experience, we’ll read Henri Bergson’s account of the concept of duration, and William James’s account of thought as a stream of consciousness. We’ll see how immediate states are depicted in Modern literature by reading Dorothy Richardson’s Pointed Roofs, Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, and excerpts from James Joyce’s Ulysses. To understand the Modernist critique of immediate experience, we’ll read influential essays by T.S. Eliot and excerpts from Wyndham Lewis’s Time and Western Man. Then we’ll read Eliot’s poetry, his play Murder in the Cathedral, and Lewis’s novel Tarr.* Finally, we’ll consider more contemporary critiques of immediate experience by Fredric Jameson and Jacques Derrida, and look at how time is handled in postmodern novels such as Don DeLillo’s White Noise, Carole Maso’s The Art Lover, and Sherman Alexie’s The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven.

In addition to the reading described above, class members will have the opportunity to analyze conceptions of time in a Modern or postmodern author of their choice, sharing their findings in an oral presentation and incorporating them into a term paper.


*Reading selections are dependent upon the availability of texts.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading

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 Rebecca S. Rauve
Date: 06/08/2008