Baudelaire, Rilke, T. S. Eliot, Kafka, Woolf, and Camus: these are the modernist authors we will study in this course. Modernist writers explored areas of experience that literature had formerly neglected (extreme or even pathological states of mind, commonplace things and people, sexuality and other corporeal processes, and so forth), and in the course of this exploration they moved away from traditional literary forms, inventing radically new forms (of which the most familiar are free verse and stream of consciousness). Class lectures will emphasize the background of modernism in the decline of Christianity among the European intelligentsia, and the associated “crisis of nihilism” that forms the central object of concern for Nietzsche. We will, however, spend most of our time paying very close attention to the texts. I will expect you to bring the relevant text to class with you, because we will be looking closely at it every day.
The first half of the course will be on poetry, the second half on fiction. I will give you very careful, detailed instruction on “how to read poetry.”
There will be a 2-3 page paper on Baudelaire; 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.
Baudelaire, poems (xerox)
Rilke, poems (xerox)
Eliot, Selected Poems
Kafka, The Metamorphosis
Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway
Camus, The Stranger