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American Modernism

ENGL 259.601
fulfills requirements:
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major



This course will introduce students to a range of literary texts written from the turn of the 20th century to the 1950s. We will ask how American modernism, as this period has come to be known, negotiates between two impulses: first, to “make it new” through formal experimentation and literary innovation. And second, to radically open up American literature to a diverse range of “authentic” experiences and voices. Rather than placing these two drives in competition with each other, the authors we consider used a sophisticated range of strategies to combine them. We will examine these developments in the context of key historical events (World Wars, Jim Crow, the Jazz Age, the Great Depression) and cultural and technological shifts (psychoanalysis, anthropology, consumer culture, radio and cinema). Readings may include works by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Sherwood Anderson, Zora Neale Hurston, Willa Cather, Langston Hughes, William Carlos Williams, William Faulkner, Henry Roth, Jean Toomer, Richard Wright, and others. Requirements include an in-class presentation, one short essay, and a final research paper.