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Literary Emotions and the Modern Novel

ENGL 265.301
MWF 12

Is affect or emotion a useful concept to read the modern novel? How do 

modern writers, often seen as aloof, detached, and elitist, actually 
discuss and use emotions? 

In the wake of recent interest in theories of emotion, this seminar aims 
to address the above questions by reading modern novels in the light 
of their emotive tones and styles. If modernity is the time when "all that 
is solid melts into air," if the claim to "make it new" entails the 
"farewell to an idea," in this class we will ask: what are the feelings of 
modernity? From Kafka's "ugly, yet desolate gesture," Woolf's 
shell-shocked melancholia, Melville and Coetzee's transgressive boredom 
and apathy, to Rushdie's 'shame extravaganza,' we will explore the 
fury, anxiety, melancholy, despair, and hopefulness of modernity embedded 
in the modern novel. Finally, as much as we will focus on emotions to 
help us to read the modern novel, we will also explore how reading the modern 
novel can enlighten us us about the seemingly mundane emotions we feel in our 
lives today. 

Readings will include novels as well as essays on emotions. Authors might 
include: Baudelaire, Kafka, Camus, Dostoyevsky, Stein, Lewis, Joyce, Woolf 
and the Bloomsbury group, Ishiguro, Rushdie, and Coetzee. Supplementary 
readings might include: Raymond Williams' Politics of Modernism, Theodor 
Adorno's Minimal Moralia, Walter Benjamin's The Origin of German Tragedy, 
Jacques Lacan's seminar on anxiety, and recent theories of shame, trauma, 
melancholia and other dangerous or ugly feelings. One short 
midterm paper, one final paper and oral presentations.

fulfills requirements