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C LIT 362 A: Topics In Modern Literature

Meeting Time: 
TTh 10:30am - 12:20pm
DEN 112
Leroy Searle

Syllabus Description:

Comparative Literature 362 A with English 313A                                              Professor Leroy Searle

10:30-12:20  TTh         MEB 245                                                                                                                               

                                                                                                                                206 409 8878

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World Modernism

This course is designed to give you a connected introduction to Modernism, not restricted to authors from the North Atlantic industrial democracies, but as a still growing international phenomenon.  The interest will not be in setting specific historical boundaries, or developing a factitious taxonomy of types or styles, as if that could define ‘modernism.’  Rather, we will be taking a broader view of essential relations and connections pertaining to how literature, and more generally, imaginative production, both respond to and shape conceptions of experience in times of more or less dramatic, often traumatic, change. 

The texts selected are in the course because they are interesting and challenging to read, and for that reason, great reading. The main focus is on reading: there is a lot of it, but it is both connected, and remarkably rewarding. These texts are in most respects contrary to the popular appeal of fantasy, the essential character of which is that it presents situations and patterns that are in several ways impossible—unless you actually believe that your witch-hazel wand will allow you to make your parents disappear, or that there are fire-breathing Orcs set upon destroying humanity, with only you and your partners able to escape.  As a course in which reading will be foregrounded, discussion will be important: don't miss class.  If you want 'w' credit, a final paper will be required.  Otherwise, the final assignment will be an in-class exam.

The texts selected are, however, often  more exciting because they are  imaginative, in the very precise sense that they actually do pertain to situations of a kind and character that are connected to your own experience, including the possibility of  understanding it intelligently.  As part of a new concentration in Comparative Literature to examine World Literature, this course will look at examples from the North Atlantic, the Mediterranean & Middle East, and South Africa. 

The operative notion of “modernism” that will be explored in this class is the response of writers and other artists to actual situations in which inherited or received ‘wisdom,’ or patterns of behavior and modes of life, appear not to be compatible with the real, material circumstances of human life as you find yourself immersed in it.  What comes next? What is worth doing?

This course qualifies for VLPA general education credit. 'W' credit is available, with the option of writing a final paper.

 Grading summary:

 A required Writing Log. (50%)  This consists of daily written entries, generally related to what you are reading.  These will be turned in three times during the quarter:  if you do it, you will get an A; if you blow it, something less.  I will comment on what you write only if you ask.  The point is to induce a simple habit, of writing about what you read.  It has real consequences and does not require policing or tutorial supervision. 

 Mid-term commentaries on selected passages. (40%)  This will be two take home exercises, to develop commentaries focusing on exactly what a selected set of passages actually say.  Full instructions will be provided.

Final assignment (5%).  Either a short final paper (for W credit), or a final examination. There will be weekly preparation for this, with attention on the development of arguments that arise, and are responsible to, actual reading.  The topics for papers, if you take that option will be provided.  This is a major assignment in learning how to think about, and think with, demanding and comprehensive literary writing. Things go bad when you distrust yourself and think you need a second rate idea stolen from the internet. Don't do it. We will spend a considerable amount of time on the matter of how to use to use digital appliances sensibly, and it starts with learning to read more exactly.

 Weekly reading quiz (5%) .  A simple 5 question quiz on the week’s reading.  No makeups: the best 8 scores will count, so you can miss two.  This pertains simply to reading and remembering. This is graded statistically, not absolutely.   

TEXTS  (assigned texts at the University Bookstore).

James Joyce: Dubliners (Dover Thrift edition, 1991): ISBN-13: 978-0486268705

 Joseph Conrad: Heart of Darkness (Modern Library, 1999): ISBN-13: 978-0375753770

 Virginia Woolf: To the Lighthouse (Harcourt, 1989) : ISBN-13: 978-0156907392

Robert Musil: The Man Without Qualities, vol 1 (Vintage, 1996) : ISBN-13: 978-0679767879

 Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar: The Time Regulation Institute (Penguin, 2014): ISBN-13: 978-0143106739

 Zakaria Tamer: Breaking Knees (Periscope, 2016): ISBN-13: 978-1902932453

 Chinua Achebe: Things Fall Apart  (Anchor, 1994):  ISBN-13: 978-0385474542

 J.M. Coetzee: Disgrace (Penguin, 2008): ISBN-13: 978-0143115281

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)
Last updated: 
October 5, 2016 - 9:12pm