Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

American Modernism

ENGL 591.401
instructor(s):
T 9-12

This course is essentially an advanced survey of American modernist literature with a strong theoretical component.  Students can expect to explore some of the following themes: the influence of modern painting on literature, the importance and cultural meaning of Dada, the relation between modernism and mass culture, the effect of such quintessentially "modern" experiences as assembly-line production, "urban shock," and mechanized war on narrative  form, the challenge of proletarian literature, and the politics of the canon-making.  Primary texts will probably include  the following: Stein, Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, "Composition as Explanation," and Tender Buttons; Sherwood Anderson, Winesburg, Ohio and Dark Laughter; Ernest Hemingway, In Our Time, The Sun Also Rises, and To Have and Have Not; Mike Gold, Jews without Money; F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby; William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying and The Sound and the Fury; Nathanael West, Complete Novels; Albert Halper, Union Square; Tom Kromer, Waiting for Nothing; John Dos Passos, The Big Money; and selected poems by several canonical and non-canonical (especially "proletarian") poets.  We shall also read a few historical texts (e.g. Matthew Josephson's, Life Among The Surrealists, Dickran Tashjian's Skyscraper Primitives, and Cary Nelson's Repression and Recovery) as well as theoretical essays by Benjamin, Lukacs, Burger, and Jameson and the like.