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Modern American Literature 1900-45: Things Fall Apart

ENGL 084.920
instructor(s):
MTWR 12-1:35

American Literature 1900-1945: THINGS FALL APART

"History broke in halves," Henry Adams lamented about the year l901. Willa Cather felt that "The world broke in two in l922 or thereabouts." By the mid-1930s John Dos Passos concluded: "all right we are two nations." This summer English 84 will investigate the aesthetics and politics of brokenness, alienation, fragmentation--and the possibilites for cultural and personal transformation. These themes bear an eerie relevance to the opening years of the 21st century, marked by falling buildings, falling airplanes, falling boundaries, falling governments.

We will locate our discussion in four defining periods of the 20th century's opening decades:

---pre-World War culture (immigration, ethnicity, class)

---expatriation and the development of modernism

---literary experimentation of the Harlem Renaissance

---society and politics during the Depression years

Readings will sample widely from novels, stories, essays, plays, poetry, and autobiographies by such writers as Mary Antin, Abraham Cahan, Sui Sin Far, Zitkala-Sa, Edith Wharton, Gertrude Stein, TS Eliot, William Carlos Williams, Ernest Hemingway, Eugene O'Neill, Clifford Odets, Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, Jean Toomer, Jessie Fauset, William Faulkner, Merdidel LeSeuer, and Michael Gold. Lecture/discussion format with active class participation; several papers with opportunities for revision; informal oral presentations; screenings (e.g. "The Grapes of Wrath"); art museum field trips; and a final exam/project, with creative options.