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Modern America: Race, Money, and Mass Culture

ENGL 799.401
W 3-6

In this advanced graduate seminar we will study some of the most important and challenging American modernists, including Gertrude Stein, Nathanael West, William Faulkner, and Richard Wright. Our discussions will focus on the impact of social modernity on the forms of fiction. We will investigate the influence of the mass media (movies, comic strips, advertising, the newspaper, etc.) on literature; we will consider the impact of World War I, urbanization, and the Great Depression; we will ponder the legacy of slavery and racism; and we will think about money--about the intersections of literature and economics at a period when the producer-capitalist culture of the nineteenth century was being transformed into our present culture of consumption. The reading list may include: Gertrude Stein, Three Lives and The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas; Malcolm Cowley, The Exile’s Return; Sherwood Anderson, Winesburg, Ohio; Ernest Hemingway, In Our Time and The Sun Also Rises; Nathanael West, Miss Lonelyhearts, A Cool Million, and The Day of the Locust; Nathan Asch, Pay Day; William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury, Light in August, and Go Down Moses; Richard Wright, Lawd Today! and Native Son. One class will be devoted to a round-table discussion of a number of documentary texts from the 1930s, and we will close by viewing a relevant film or two, like Sullivan’s Travels and The Moderns. Requirements: one or two in-class presentation on assigned topics and a final research paper. Protracted incompletes are frowned on.

Fulfills #4 requirement.

fulfills requirements