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Modernism and Modernities: Literature and Popular Culture

ENGL 259.601
R 5:30-8:30
fulfills requirements:
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major
Elective Seminar of the Standard Major

Song lyrics, ad slogans, the names of Hollywood film stars: modern writers incorporated many of these popular culture references into their work during an exciting period of artistic experimentation. This course looks at a range of poets and novelists in the early decades of the twentieth century, examining why so many modern writers were interested in popular culture and how this interest shaped their aesthetic choices. For example, why does James Joyce fill Ulysses with ad slogans? Why did Aldous Huxley decide to write about Hollywood? As we study these writers’ formal innovations, we’ll also study what these popular culture references can reveal about some of the major social upheavals of the time, including two world wars, the rise of mass consumption, and challenges to traditional notions of gender identity. This class will include criticism as well as literature, and students will work towards a final research paper. Authors are likely to include poets H.D., Gertrude Stein, and T. S. Eliot as well as novelists James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene and Aldous Huxley. We will also discuss films by Luis Buñel, Sergei Eisenstein and others. Requirements will include class participation, a short essay, a research proposal, an annotated bibliography and a final research paper.