Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Moderisms and Modernities

ENGL 059.401
instructor(s):
MWF 12-1

This course introduces an exciting period of international cultural innovation and experimentation. We will trace the evolution of modernism from its roots in the middle of the nineteenth century through a range of artistic movements associated with modernism in the early decades of the twentieth century. During this period, dramatic social changes -- including industrialization, urbanization, and the expansion of mass culture, along with the erosion of long-held certainties about religion, empire, identity, gender, and sexuality -- led to a widespread sense of alienation and anxiety, as well as an awareness of aesthetic empowerment and creative possibility. Exploring a variety of sometimes competing attempts to order experience through experiments in language and aesthetic form, we will attend to modernism's transnational literary movements and explore parallel developments in the visual and other arts. Authors are likely to include Conrad, Ford, Toomer, Larsen, Stein, Eliot, Joyce, Woolf, Kafka, Beckett. We will also read essays by influential thinkers including Nietzsche, Freud, DuBois, Simmel, and Benjamin, and discuss films by Lang, Chaplin, and others. Requirements will include lively class participation, several quizzes, two essays, and a final exam.