Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Modern America

ENGL 064.001
instructor(s):
TR 3:00-4:30
fulfills requirements:
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major

This course will introduce students to the major American writers from the first half of the twentieth century, and some fascinating forgotten ones as well.  While focusing to some extent on the decade of the 1930s, the aim of this course is to develop a rich and flexible conception of modernism and an understanding the broad cultural transition that defines this period: a transition from a Puritan-republican culture of production to a culture of consumption or abundance. Our readings and discussions will explore the following: the relationship between modernist form and key aspects of social modernity (such as the city, the assembly line, the automobile, and mechanized war); the relationship between modernism and mass culture; modernism, money, and consumerism; and, finally, modernism and politics: the way writers of this period engaged with questions of race, class, ethnicity, gender, and national identity.  Readings will include: Anderson, Winesburg, Ohio; Hemingway, In Our Time; Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby; Gold, Jews Without Money; Faulkner, As I Lay Dying and selected short stories; West, Miss Lonelyhearts and The Day of the Locust; Kromer, Waiting for Nothing; Wright, Lawd Today!; Asch, Payday, McCarthy, The Company She Keeps; and Dos Passos, The Big Money.  We  will also consider several paintings, films (e.g., Modern Times, I Was a Fugitive from a Chain Gang, Scarface, and The Moderns) and read some poetry from the period.  Requirements: midterm and final papers.