Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Making and Marking Time

ENGL 563.401
crosslisted as: GRMN 541, COML 537, ARTH 584
instructor(s):
Tuesday 3:00-5:00

What is time? In the late 19th century, the questions of how to define time, how to slow down time, and, above all, how to accelerate movement have become a focus of the work by many European philosophers who have tried to come to terms with what is now termed as the Industrial Revolution, and the idea of "progress." And can time be understood as something continuous, or is it fragmented, proceeding in fits and burst? Such contemplations on time have deeply influenced writers. Marcel Proust was a reader of Henri Bergson and translated his theories of time into a concept of memory.  Thomas Mann has tried to navigate timelessness in a novel set on a "Magic Mountain." Virginia Woolf and James Joyce have pictured an entire universe in a single day (Mrs. Dalloway, Ulysses) while early 20th century Italian Futurists made the contemplation of time part of their manifestoes.  With them, and with expressionist writers in Germany or writers from the DADA movement there elsewhere in Europe,  a reckoning with time would also influence their choice of genre and form, writerly practice, and technique. Parallel to these literary experimentation, pictures were set into motion in scholarly studies by Eadweard Muybridge and finally in the new medium film; Impressionist painters insisted on picturing fleeting moments, and composers experimented with temporal sequences. We may be able to understand a reconsideration of time as driving force for the modern movement, or simply "modernity."
 
In this seminar, we will study a selection of literary texts of the late 19th century and the modernist movement, consider the philosophical background and changes in historiography, and integrate a consideration of the visual arts and music.