We will read a variety of poems and fictional works from France, Germany, England, and the U.S. in order to get a sense of the complex phenomenon called “modernism.” Modernism is a style, or cluster of styles, of writing that flourished from roughly 1910-1930, but the beginnings of which can be traced to France in the mid-19th century. There is no simple definition of what “modernism” means; like other period terms in literary theory (e.g., “romanticism” or “realism”), it refers not to any single quality of literary works but to a diverse set of stylistic characteristics, which get mixed and matched differently by different authors. The only way to get a sense of how the term works is to read a number of texts that are labeled with it and see how they are similar and how they are different.
I don‟t expect you to already know how to read poetry; one of my main goals in this class is to teach you how to do it. I will provide you with a “tool box” of techniques by which to break poems down into understandable language. Then, in the second half of the course, we will work on a comparable tool box for fiction.
There will be a 2-3 page paper on Baudelaire due the second week (worth 20% of your grade); a 4-5 page mid-term paper on Rilke and Eliot (40 %); and a final, 4-5 page, paper on modernist fiction (40%). Your entire grade will be based on these three papers.
We will spend the first half of the course reading the work of three poets, the second half the work of three prose writers, as follows:
Baudelaire, poems (xerox)
Rilke, poems (xerox)
Eliot, Selected Poems
Kafka, The Metamorphosis
Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway
Gide, The Counterfeiters
The work of Baudelaire and Rilke will be available in a course packet from the Ave. Copy Center, 4141 University Way (known as “the Ave.”). It‟s below street level, located beneath the University Credit Union. The other texts (Metamorphosis, Mrs. Dalloway, and The Counterfeiters) will be available at the University Bookstore. I strongly recommend you buy the editions that I‟ve ordered for you; otherwise you won‟t have the same page numbers, and it will be hard for you to follow class discussion of the text.