Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

The Twentieth Century

ENGL 104.401
TR 1:30-3

"The twentieth century" or "my twentieth century"? It looks as if it was only now that the century comes to a close that we can turn back and survey it. Not a pretty sight, for sure, if we think of the spectacle of increasingly mechanized mass-murder and destruction it provides, barely balanced by a few timid steps toward economic justice in a world-wide process of globalization. However, to avoid repeating Stephen Dedalus's revulsion and escapism -- when, as you will remember, he was trying to "awake" from "the nightmare of history" -- or Modernism's illusion that a "new order" can be created from universal "chaos" -- as Ezra Pound would say: "Make it New! Day by day, make it new" -- I suggest that we devise strategies by which we might "make it our own". To get a clearer insight into "my twentieth century", I have chosen a predominantly historical axis, moving through generic categories such as modernism, the avant-garde, classicism, and post-modernism, in order to understand the genesis of complex and contradictory movements of appropriation that often use parody, collage and ironical juxtaposition and have been baptized as "post-modern". We'll meditate on the critical temporality associated with this omnipresent "post-" that condemns "our" century to such an untimely obsolescence. This century has been marked by crucial artistic upheavals in literature, painting, music and the emergence of a visual culture dominated by film and television. The early discovery of the Unconscious and of repressed drives leading to a "society of the spectacle" of the Unconscious through endlessly reiterated images will lead us to add even more quotation marks to terms such as "culture" and "civilization". Using Butler's introduction to Modernism, we will read works by Joyce, Eliot, Pound, Freud, Woolf, Kafka, Borges, Rich, Ginsberg, Pynchon, Carver and Acker, see a few films and listen to the music of Arnold Sch�nberg.

Requirements: two short papers, quizzes, a midterm and a final.

Butler Early Modernism
Joyce Dubliners
Freud Dora and Civilization
Woolf Mrs Dalloway
Nabokov Pale Fire
Pynchon The Crying of Lot 49
Carver Cathedral
Acker Empire of the Senseless
Plus a bulk pack from Campus Copy (sections marked B)
1/18. Introduction: Main trends and concepts: Modernism, avant-garde, classicism, postmodernism.
1/20. Butler Early Modernism. (1)
1/25. Butler Early Modernism (2). Sch�nberg's Erwartung.
1/27. Modernism and the City: from Joyce to Dos Passos.
FILM 1 Metropolis.
2/1 "The Dead" in the context of Dubliners
2/3 "The Dead"
FILM 2 The Dead
2/8 "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" (B)
2/10 "The Waste Land" (B)
2/15 From "The Waste Land" to Pound's Cantos (B)
2/17 Freud Dora: An analysis of a Case of Hysteria
2/22 Freud Civilization and its discontents
2/24 Freud Civilization and its discontents
FILM 3 Dr. Caligari
2/29 Kafka's parables (from The Basic Kakfa). (B)
3/2 Borges's parables (from Labyrinths) (B)
3/7 Woolf Mrs. Dalloway FILM 4 Mrs Dalloway
3/9 Nabokov Pale Fire First paper due
3/21 Nabokov Pale Fire
3/23 Ginsberg Howl and Kaddish (B)
3/28 Adrienne Rich 1 (essays and poems, selection) (B)
3/30 Midterm 4/4 Adrienne Rich 2 (selection) (B)
4/6 Thomas Pynchon's early stories fromSlow Learner (B)
4/11 Thomas Pynchon The Crying of Lot 49
4/13 Thomas Pynchon The Crying of Lot 49
4/18 Carver Cathedral
4/20 Carver Cathedral
FILM 5 Short Cuts
4/25 Kathy Acker Empire of the Senseless
4/27 Recapitulation Second paper due