Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

The Hard and Soft in Modernism

ENGL 773.401
R 9-12

The aim of this class will consist in a problematization of modernism in terms of gender and genre -- with a stress on British Modernism. Its subtitle could be "the masculinization of Modernism". Modernism has often been associated with Pound's notion of a new "hardness" associated with the "young" or the "modern" writers he promotes and opposed to Victorian "softness". I would like to question the validity of these terms, and beyond, of historical categories such as "the Pound Era" that exclude the Bloomsbury group of the canon of modernism for its alleged "softness". I will also take my point of departure in critical discussions of Huyssen's notion of a "divide" between a female "mass culture" seen as "Modernism's Other", thus opening a theoretical discussion of the criteria underpinning Modernism with Pound, Adrian Stokes and Clement Greenberg. We will also read closely a number of poems, so as to combine stylistic analysis and verify the practical relevance of the couple "hard vs. soft", starting with Hopkins's poems, then moving on to Wyndham Lewis, Hart Crane, Mina Loy, H.D., Pound, Eliot, Yeats, Auden, Mc Neice, Dylan Thomas, David Jones, David Gascoyne, Basil Bunting and Ted Hughes. Requirements: Two papers, one oral presentation.