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The Twentieth Century

ENGL 104.001
instructor(s):
MWF 12

Note: This course fulfills the Arts & Letters "General Requirement"
within the College General Requirement. In English, only English 100-104
are General Requirement courses; almost all others will fulfill the
"distributional" requirement in Arts & Letters. This is an introductory
course--not one for senior majors. Experienced majors should take one of
our 200-level seminars covering topics in the twentieth century.

This course offers an overview of the most important trends in
twentieth-century literature: Modernism, Postmodernism, and the rise
of so-called Post-Colonial literatures after the global collapse of
European imperialism.  We will read the work of some of the century's
most celebrated British and American authors, and also (since
twentieth-century culture is increasingly an international affair) by
writers from such places as Nigeria, South Africa, and the Carribean.
Our texts raise some of the following questions: Can art accurately
represent the world, especially if the world is constituted by
different peoples' ways of seeing it?  Can one live meaningfully in
modern cities?  Does individual life matter any more in an age of
mechanized warfare and mass slaughter? How does one narrate a life
that has become absolutely saturated with images and information?
What has European civilization meant for non-Europeans?  What is the
relationships between literature and mass culture?  What happens to
"real life" when all you do is shop?

The reading list will include the following: Faulkner, *As I Lay
Dying*; Hemingway, *In Our Time*; West, *Miss Lonelyhearts*; Kafka,
*The Trial*; Conrad, *The Heart of Darkness*; Achebe, *Things Fall
Apart*; Rhys, *The Wide Sargasso Sea*; Coetzee, *Waiting For the
Barbarians*; Auster, *City of Glass*;  Nabokov, *Lolita*; Perec,
*Things*; and DeLillo, *White Noise*.  The course will also include
some discussion of paintings, films, and advertisements.

While students from all disciplines and departments are welcome in
this course, they should know in advance that some of the works will
be very difficult (Kafka and Faulkner, for instance, are notoriously
obscure) and very disturbing.  This course is not for people who just
want an light cultural suntan and will be offended by books that
address things like torture, pederasty, and sick jokes!  The reading
load is fairly heavy (one book per week), and the grade will be
largely based on short weekly writing assignments.