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The Twentieth Century

ENGL 104.401

Fulfills both the Arts and Letters and the Cross-Cultural Analysis requirements of the College's General Education sequence.


This course will offer an intensive, guided introduction to major movements and figures in literature since 1900 set in the context of the past century’s serial revolutions in art, science, music, philosophy, religion, economics, and politics. The course begins by considering the transformative effects of Darwin, Marx, Freud, and Nietzsche on prevailing concepts of human nature and historical destiny, and by exploring two short masterpieces of the late nineteenth-century, Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Tolstoy’s Death of Ivan Ilych.  We will then pursue several opening themes – the specter of war and dehumanization, the rise of the professions, the divided psyche, the urban jungle, the war of the sexes, the growth of machine society, and the explosion of mass media– through the work of several landmark modernists: Kafka, Yeats, Eliot, Stein, Cather, Joyce, and Woolf.  Poetry and short fiction will be complemented by one full-length novel (To the Lighthouse) and by background lectures in social history and the visual arts.  In the second half of the course, we will track the same central themes over the dividing line of 1945.  Along the way, we’ll investigate the aftermath of WWII in new moral realisms (Orwell, O’Connor), in Cold War existentialism and absurdism (Camus, Beckett), in poetry's return to lyric or confessional intensity (Larkin, Bishop), and in the history of decolonization (Achebe).  Finally, we will conclude with a series of contemporary global fictions that bring the central concerns of the course into the present: Pat Barker’s Regeneration, Ian McEwan’s Atonement, Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things, and Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist.


Course requirements will include regular attendance and participation, several brief in-class writing assignments, a 2000-word critical essay, a 50-minute midterm exam, and a 100-minute final exam.  The reading load is wide-ranging and substantial but designed to be manageable for students of all backgrounds.  There are no prerequisites; no prior experience with university-level arts and literature courses is required.


Spring 2013 TA's

Angela Britto  FBH 331

Jackie Burek FBH 331

Joan Lubin FBH 312

Ali Madani FBH 312

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