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C LIT 362 A: Topics In Modern Literature

Meeting Time: 
MTWTh 12:30pm - 1:20pm
THO 134
Leroy Searle

Additional Details:

Course website:

The central issue in this course will be the idea of MODERNISM. The course will be a reading course, with consistent focus on making sense of texts that have often seemed puzzling to readers. Given the range (and interest) of the assigned reading, considerable emphasis will be put on the discussion sections. There will be extensive guidance for all assignments. The guiding premise is that no one can write well if they do not first attending to reading intelligently. That will be our principal concern. I am not interested in reading papers that merely indulge unsupported opinions or that have been patched together from the internet. Accordingly, all writing assignments will be short and very specifically related to reading the texts assigned. The course is cross listed, with two sections, one in Comparative Literature and the other in English: there is no difference except for department designation, course number and title. The course will carry credit for majors in both departments, as well as distribution credit (VLPA). If one section is full, sign up for the other. Please note that all lectures will be recorded and posted daily on the Web site indicated above, to allow you to review anything presented in class. Attendance is required as the fundamental condition for participation in the course, and will be a factor in your final grade. This is not a course you can take in your pajamas.

We will read works by Shakespeare, John Milton, Immanuel Kant, Jean Jacques Rousseau, Wordsworth, Walt Whitman, Charles Baudelaire, Stephen Mallarmé, T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Rainer Maria Rilke, Franz Kafka, Jorge Luis Borges, Wallace Stevens, Czeslaw Milosz, and Margaret Atwood. Most selections will be short, except as noted below in the list of texts.

You will notice that the list of readings does not follow the current convention of so-called “period courses,” in which, for example, a literary “period” is defined by beginning and ending dates. In the first days of the course, the conceptual, institutional, cultural and political issues that touch this matter will be discussed directly. Here, it is important to note that what counts as “modern” has always been relative to something viewed as “traditional,” or “conventional” or “ancient.” What makes something modern, that is to say, is never entirely determined by its date of publication—nor even by its use of certain formal devices or strategies. More generally, virtually all proposed “periods” qualified in their own times as “modern” inasmuch as they presented challenges to what had come before.

In a more fundamental sense, all of the works assigned in this course count as modern in the sense that they present a challenge to the status quo, to the commonplace, to received wisdom—and in that respect, their literary and cultural function is exceptionally important by posing, repeatedly, the question of the purpose or function of literary writing. Note also that the readings are not restricted to single cultural traditions (though for practical reasons, all the readings are available in English versions).

Please note that YOU MUST USE THE ASSIGNED EDITIONS. You can realize very significant savings by buying most of these books on line, though the editions will all be available in the University Bookstore. The course reader is required and will be available at Professional Copy and Print (42nd and University Way). A PDF version will be posted on-line.

In U Bookstore:
William Shakespeare: Troilus and Cressida (Pelican Shakespeare) ISBN 0140714863
John Milton: Samson Agonistes (Crofts Classics edition) ISBN 0882950584
T. S. Eliot: Collected Poems 1909-1962 (Harcourt ) ISBN 0151189781
William Carlos Williams: Imaginations (New Directions) ISBN 0811202291
Virginia Woolf: To the Lighthouse (Oxford World Classics) ISBN 0199536619
James Joyce: Dubliners (Viking Revised, ed. Scholes & Litz) ISBN 0140247742

In the Course Reader: (Professional Copy and Print) (also on-line)
The Book of Ecclesiastes (from the King James Bible)
Clement Greenberg : “Modernist Painting”
Dieter Henrich: selection from Aesthetic Judgment and the Moral Image of the World.
Jean Jacques Rousseau: selection from Emile
Immanuel Kant : selections from Critique of the Power of Judgment
William Wordsworth: Preface to Lyrical Ballads (2nd edition)
Walt Whitman: Democratic Vistas
Franz Kafka: “Metamorphosis”, “In the Penal Colony” and selected parables
Jorge Luis Borges: “Tlon, Uqbar and Orbis Tertius,” and “The Circular Ruins”
Selected poetry & prose by
Emily Dickinson, Charles Baudelaire, Rainer Maria Rilke, Ezra Pound, Wallace Stevens, Czeslaw Milosz, and Margaret Atwood.

Catalog Description: 
Explores topics in literature and cultures of the modern world (approximately 1800-present) across national and regional cultures, such as particular movements, authors, genres, themes, or problems.
Department Requirements Met: 
Literature Core
GE Requirements Met: 
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Other Requirements Met: 
Last updated: 
April 28, 2016 - 9:19am