This course begins with a plunge into the ferment of modern life in Paris, the capital of the 19th century. We will connect the new sensations and experiences available in the urban metropolis to the aesthetic, political, and social upheaval that characterized the end of the 19th century and the start of the 20th. What does it mean to be modern? What is the role of modern literature in a world of accelerating technological change, uneven development, and devastating war? This course will introduce students to the major philosophers of modernism and the key English-language writers of the period as we move to London in the aftermath of the first world war. Students will learn to read literary texts closely, to link their reading to historical contexts, and to assess modernism’s own claims about itself. In order to pursue this last goal, we will conclude with a counter-example: the Caribbean “irruption into modernity” described by Edouard Glissant and Paul Gilroy. From the Caribbean, the story of European modernity looks very different, and we will read works of Caribbean literature that reflect new ideas about what it means to be modern. Assignments will consist of short, exploratory writing spaced throughout the semester, a final paper, and a final exam. Writers will include: Baudelaire, Benjamin, Eliot, Freud, Gilroy, Glissant, Joyce, Marx, Rhys, Simmel, Walcott, Woolf.
Keywords: modernism, modernity, theory, war, Caribbean literature