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Modernisms and Modernity

ENGL 059.001
instructor(s):
MWF 1 (Screenings M 5-7pm)

This course introduces a period of international cultural innovation and experimentation. We will trace the evolution of Western modernism from its roots in the middle of the nineteenth century through a range of artistic movements associated with modernism and the conditions of modernity 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, artistic and filmic practices. We will read essays by influential thinkers including Sigmund Freud, Georg Simmel, Henri Bergson, Walter Benjamin, and Siegfried Kracauer. Evaluating the cultural productions of modernity from an intermedial standpoint, we will consider authors such as William Faulkner, Joseph Conrad, Hart Crane, Frank Norris, Edgar Allan Poe, Virginia Woolf, Ezra Pound, Langston Hughes, Franz Kafka, James Joyce, filmmakers such as Thomas Edison, D. W. Griffith, F. W. Murnau, Erich von Stroheim, Jean Epstein, Fritz Lang, Dziga Vertov, Walter Ruttmann, Luis Bunuel, Charlie Chaplin, and artists and artistic movements such as Alfred Stieglitz, Jacob Riis, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Joseph Cornell, Max Ernst, Man Ray, the Bloomsbury Group and the Ashcan School. Requirements will include lively class participation, a viewing journal, two essays, midterm and a final paper.