1922, The Year of Modernist Masterpieces
Why did the year 1922 see the birth of so many modernist masterpieces by Marcel Proust, Franz Kafka, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, May Sinclair, Rainer Maria Rilke, Katherine Mansfield, E.E. Cummings, Gertrude Stein and T. S. Eliot? In order to answer to this question, we will study that year as a slice of global cultural history including developments in music, painting, film, architecture, politics, philosophy, sciences and technology. If 1922 ushered in the production of the radically new, that moment also saw the emergence of a “modern classicism.” The mixture of the new and of tradition that we tend to call “modernism” became stabilized at that time and has since become our classicism. To understand it better, we will study sections from In Search of Lost Time, Ulysses and The Castle and will read complete texts of The Enormous Room, The Duino Elegies, Geography and Plays, Jacob’s Room, The Garden Party, Life and Death of Harriet Frean, and The Waste Land. We will watch and discuss a few films produced in 1922. Most of the texts are available online. The collection 1922: Literature, Culture, Politics, ed. J-M Rabaté, Cambridge University Press (2105) will serve as a guide.