Office Hours: Tuesday and by Appointment
20th Century British Literature
The Longman Anthology of British Literature, Vol. 2C
James Joyce, Ulysses (Vintage Edition)
Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse
D. H. Lawrence, Sons and Lovers (Signet Classics – you will need to buy this one)
Texts on the syllabus that are not in one of these three books will be supplied by me
“May one offer in exhibit the year 1922!” — F. Scott Fitzgerald
“The world broke in two in 1922 or thereabouts.” — Willa Cather
This course explores what we now call “Modernism,” a literary and artistic movement of the first half of the twentieth century. As such, we will try to figure out if it is possible to define what, exactly, this movement was. In order to focus our analysis, we will organize ourselves, very loosely, around two particular years in the early-twentieth century, 1913 and 1922, in order to explore the state and development of British Modernism before and after World War I. What was the state of modernist literature in 1913, poised as it was before the cataclysmic rupture of World War I? Was “High Modernism” already under way and simply continued its course until 1922? Or had modernism begun a different trajectory, only to be interrupted and changed by the war? We will look at a number of influential and original works from both years in order to attempt answers to these questions.
The early days of Modernism are often thought in terms of an imminent rupture — a radical break from the aesthetics and culture that had proceeded it. A number of modernist authors self-consciously positioned themselves as leaders in a kind of artistic revolution designed to clear away the debris and create something new. In addition to texts written in 1913, we will also read several formulations, declarations, and manifestos that cluster around 1913 in order to consider their relationship to the art produced at the same time. What are we to make of this impulse to write manifestos? Is this a unique feature of early Modernism required, in some way, by the historical situation? What does it mean for artists to write about their own art as they make it? Can we take these manifestos and declaration at face-value or must we read them as a kind of “literature”? Do these manifestos contain any kind of performative power or are they merely descriptive? If time permits, we will try to conclude by considering the ways in which World War I may have changed, revised, or intensified the trajectory of modernism.
1922 was a remarkable year in terms of the sheer number of influential modernist works published. Michael North argues in his book Reading 1922 that one could almost “account [for] all of modern literature in English based on the work of a very few months extending from the publication of Ulysses in February 1922 to the publication of Cane, Harmonium, and Spring and All in the fall of 1923.” To large degree, that is what we will try to do here. By looking at a particular influential year, we will attempt to get a broader picture of modern literature; our experiment is to explore how these masterworks of literary modernism fit into the framework of their time. Although several of our texts were published in 1922, we will also consider a few written in 1922 (and published later) or set in 1922.
The decision to isolate two particular years as representative for all of Modernism would make a chronological reading list somewhat hyperbolic. Instead, we will proceed without much thought to what comes before or after each other in order to put our larger question into relief. That is, by not putting the texts in order by month and day, we will save our questions about temporality for the relationship between 1913 and other years. Thus, this class is not so much concerned with the sequencing of events within 1913 itself but with how 1913 is positioned in relationship to 1922 and beyond.
Furthermore, our examination of the year 1922 will focus on competing versions of 1922 within the year itself and will be less concerned with its relationship to the years that preceded or follow. For this reason, we will play somewhat fast and loose with the boundaries of the year 1922 and will allow ourselves to read works that were not actually published in that year.
Readings: Complete readings on the date listed. Plan to read slowly. Count on reading key passages more than once. If the test eludes you, respect both your intellect and the difficulty of the text by coming up with a question that will help you understand. Bring that question to class.
Assignments [Note: this section was modified by agreement of the class]: You will have one essays, a midterm and a final examination. Unannounced quizzes may be conducted in class. Hard copies of essays are due at the beginning of class on the date indicated. Any extension must be requested in advance of the deadline and will be granted only in the event of exceptional circumstances. Papers incur a one-third letter-grade deduction when late, with additional one-third deductions for every 24 hours past the deadline.
Part I 10%
Part II 15%
Part III 75%
Total Paper Grade
Total Paper Grade 33%
Total Class Grade
Attendance: Attendance is mandatory. We will rely on each other throughout the semester to become more informed and articulate. It will be difficult for you to replicate what you miss in class, especially on those occasions when a peer’s spontaneous contribution produces an idea, a key term, a claim, or a close reading that changes our classroom conversation in the ensuing sessions, and perhaps for the duration of the course. You should regard each class discussion as a text that you help to author and for which you will be held accountable in the major assignments of the course, especially the final exam. After three absences, an additional, unexcused absence will result in a one-third letter grade deduction for the term. The next unexcused absence results in a letter grade deduction for the semester. Any student accumulating more than two unexcused absences on top of the initial three should expect to receive a failing grade for the course. On very rare occasions, extenuating circumstances may warrant an exception to this rule. Extreme or chronic tardiness may also count as absence. Please do not present documentation to excuse any of these three days; there is no distinction between excused/unexcused absences.
Note: It is entirely possible, if not guaranteed, that the reading schedule will change over the course of the semester. I reserve the right to make changes as I see fit for the best interest of the class. It is your responsibility to keep up with such changes. I will always update the reading schedule posted on the course website.
Wed, Feb 3 Roger Fry, “The French Group” (1912); Clive Bell, “The English Group” (1912); Erik Satie, “The Musician’s Day” (1913); Wyndham Lewis, from “The Cubist Room” (1914); Karl Kraus, from “In These Great Times” (1914); Guillaume Apollinaire, “Art and the War: Concerning an Allied Exhibition” (1916); the syllabus
Fri, Feb 5Manifestos Part I, cont.
Mon Feb 8Manifestos Part I, cont.
Wed, Feb 10Manifestos Part II: Ezra Pound, Personae; Flilippo Tommaso Marinetti, “The Variety Theatre” (1913); Ilya Zdanevich and Mikhail Larionov, “Why We Paint Ourselves: A Futurist Manifesto” (1913); Mina Loy, “Feminist Manifesto” (1914); Wassily Kandinsky, from “The Problem of Form” (1912); Blast (1914), selections.
Fri, Feb 12Manifestos Part II, cont.
Mon, Feb 15D. H. Lawrence, Sons and Lovers
Wed, Feb 17Lawrence, cont.
Fri, Feb 19Lawrence, cont.
Mon, Feb 22Lawrence, cont.
Wed, Feb 24Trench poets: Rupert Brooke, Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen, Isaac Rosenberg
Fri, Feb 26Trench poets, cont.
Mon, Mar 1Trench poets, cont.
Wed, Mar 3Trench poets, cont.
Fri, Mar 5The New Freewoman and The Egoist in London
Mon, Mar 8Midterm
1922: the year the world broke apart
Wed, Mar 10T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land
Fri, Mar 12Eliot, cont.
Mon, Mar 15Eliot, cont.
Wed, Mar 17Eliot, cont.
Fri, Mar 19Eliot, cont.; Paper Part I Due
Mon, Mar 29James Joyce, Ulysses, ch. 1-2
Wed, Mar 31Ulysses, ch. 3-5
Fri, Apr 2 Good Friday – No Class
Mon, Apr 5Ulysses, ch. 6-8
Wed, Apr 7Ulysses, 9-10
Fri, Apr 9Ulysses, 11-13
Mon, Apr 12Ulysses, 14-15
Wed, Apr 14Ulysses, 16-18; Whew!
Fri, Apr 16Ulysses, cont.; Paper Part II Due
Mon, Apr 19Ulysses, cont
Wed, Apr 21William Butler Yeats, “The Lake Isle of Innisfree,” “No Second Troy,” “September 1913”
Fri, Apr 23Yeats, “The Wild Swans at Coole,” “An Irish Airman Foresees His Death,” “Easter 1916”
Mon, Apr 26Yeats, “Leda and the Swan,” “The Second Coming;” T. S. Eliot, “Journey of the Magi”
Wed, Apr 28Academic Advising – No Class
Fri, Apr 30Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse; List of 30 articles due
Mon, May 3Woolf, cont.; Annotations for 4 articles due
Wed, May 5Woolf, cont.
Fri, May 7
Mon, May 10Final Paper Due
Wed, May 12Exam Prep
Final ExamTues, May 18 9:00am