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The Twentieth Century

ENGL 104.401
instructor(s):
MWF 10

This course begins with two pivotal studies of consciousness from the beginning of the last century: Sigmund Freud's "On Dreams" and W.E.B. Du Bois's The Souls of Black Folk. Taking these works together, in both complementary and antagonistic ways, we will use them to provoke a series of questions about subjectivity, formal innovation, and racial difference in twentieth century texts. The course will spend a considerable amount of time studying James Joyce's Ulysses, thinking about the relationship of this difficult text not only to the other works that we study, but also to the rise of totalitarian regimes and racial violence in both Europe and America. In other words, we will not attempt to awaken, as Stephen Dedalus wishes to do, from the "nightmare of history," but instead will try to understand the ways in which all of our texts embed historical considerations within themselves. Besides the texts listed above, we will read works by Raymond Chandler, T.S. Eliot, Chester Himes, Langston Hughes, Georgia Douglas Johnson, James Weldon Johnson, Harryette Mullen, and Virginia Woolf and we will study films by Dziga Vertov, Charlie Chaplin, Robert Altman and others.