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The Twentieth Century

ENGL 104.601
Tuesday 5:30-8:30pm

This course will offer a 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. Our focus will be on British and American novels in English, with attention to the intrinsically international aspects of these world powers. 


We will cover the iconic historical upheavals of the twentieth century, including industrial modernity, mass media, consumerism, world wars, Cold War, urban growth, migration, civil rights movements, decolonization, partition, financialization, and globalization. Our approach to these events will be a specifically literary history, including discussion of modernism, realism, and postmodernism; psychological fiction, the fragility and flexibility of novel form, national allegory, the centrality of both highbrow aesthetic experiment and lowbrow popular genre. 


We will conclude with a series of contemporary global texts that bring the central issues of the course into the present, examining how twentieth-century concerns are maintained, transformed, or abandoned faced with the major pressures of the twenty-first century: climate crisis, the power and influence of transnational corporations, ongoing forms of imperialism and colonization, and intensification of conflict in state and popular politics. 


Students of all levels and backgrounds are welcome. We will prioritize the pleasures of reading through this century, from landmark modernists to New Weird fiction, from nineteenth-century ghosts to dystopian future fruit. There are no prerequisites; no prior experience with university-level arts and literature courses is required. 


fulfills requirements
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major
Sector III: Arts & Letters of the College's General Education Curriculum