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Modern American Literature 1900-1945

ENGL 084.001
instructor(s):
TR 3-4:30

This lecture and discussion course will offer a survey of American literature in the first half of this century. Our investigations will be centered around two related, but not identical concepts, namely modernism and social modernity. We shall consider questions like the following: how were artistic forms affected by the new everyday experiences of twentieth-century life--driving in a car, listening to the radio, staring at strangers in a subway car, or
watching a close-up in a movie? Did human nature really change in 1910, as Virginia Woolf once said? Was America, as Gertrude Stein once said, the first country to enter into the twentieth century, or was it rather old-fashioned, provincial, and materialist compared to Europe? What effect did modern mass society (and such vast forces as economic depression, modern war, the media empires) have on the American dream of individual success? We shall study a wide variety of texts--novels, poems, paintings, autobiographies, films, and theoretical essays--by Stein, Picasso, Anderson, Hemingway, Williams, Chaplin, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Duchamp, Grosz, Kromer, Fearing, Dos Passos and others. Requirements: two papers of about 6-10 pages in length, plus a worksheet assignment that might involve a visit to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.