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Modernisms and Modernities

ENGL 059.001
instructor(s):
MWF 12-1

This class will introduce students to the themes and issues of literary modernism in a transatlantic context between the years 1850 and 1950. To do so, it will focus on the exchanges between high art and low popular culture in this period by tracking figures of the "new" and the "revival" or "renaissance," particularly in Ireland and the United States. Beginning with examples of both the Irish and American plays of Dion Boucicault, a writer who frankly catered to his audience's expectations and is often considered a forerunner of the Hollywood film industry, the course will trace the reception and influence of his hugely popular dramas for subsequent writers with different and less popular artistic ambitions. We will also comparatively consider music and film as art forms under similar pressures during the period. Readings will be drawn from among the works of Dion Boucicault, Lady Augusta Gregory, Nella Larsen, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Weldon Johnson, Sean O'Casey, Claude McKay, Zora Neale Hurston, Wallace Thurman, Flann O'Brien, Eugene O'Neill, T.S. Eliot, James Joyce, and Samuel Beckett. As a way to offer context for this genealogy, we will also read short critical excerpts from Paul Gilroy, Paul de Man, Marshall Berman, Benedict Anderson, and Michael North, among others. There will be one shorter essay (4-6 pages), one longer essay (8-10 pages), and a final exam.