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Topics in Modernism

ENGL 210.401

"Modernist Ekphrasis." This class will attempt to explore the ways in which modernist writing responded to the overwhelming critical and economic success of modernist painting in the first four decades of the twentieth century. We will focus on literary works that attempt to engage painting and portraiture as a theme: works like James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse, Marianne Moore's "When I Buy Pictures," and Gertrude Stein's Three Portraits of Painters. And we will consider the way in which the collage paintings of cubism and surrealism are meant to function as "texts." But we will also attempt to understand the marketplaces that supported both art forms, and compare the critical writings that surrounded and supported them (Clive Bell, Roger Fry and Clement Greenberg in art, Ezra Pound, Lionel Trilling, and the Scrutiny critics in writing) in order to try to understand the institutional fields in which each discipline worked. As part of our researches, this class will involve a field trip to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, or possibly the Barnes Foundation.

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