Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Literature Gone Viral

ENGL 059.401
also offered as: COML 059
TR 3-4:30

Franz Kafka wrote, “a book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us.” Today, Kafka’s aesthetic declaration has become a Pinterest motif. Samuel Beckett’s tortured sentences have been turned into a motivational cat tumblr (“Beckittns”), and Virginia Woolf’s furrowed profile graces screensavers across the globe.  Modernist literature has a reputation for requiring years of concentrated, difficult study, but what if digital culture helps us to see that modernism is actually meant to be speed read?  In order to explore this provocation, we will investigate the overlooked epigrammatic side of the modernist movement in the works of Geoffrey Madan, Gertrude Stein, Cyril Connolly, Beckett, James Joyce, D.H. Lawrence, Wyndham Lewis, and Woolf.   We will use the sociology of literary circulation as a guide to parsing how modernism is converted into a cultural meme.  The final research project will take the form of a digital experiment with "viral modernism," accompanied by a reflective essay. 

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