M W 1-2:15

Bldg 52, 162

The idea of the "Modern," by its very definition, is constantly shifting. Appropriately enough, therefore, the idea of “Modernism” innately defies categorization and definition yet the literary tradition has attempted to codify it, to make an anomalous movement fit into a limiting category. Traditionally, the academy has defined modernism as a monolithic and cohesive avant-garde movement marked by exclusiveness, difficulty, stylistic experimentation, and erudition. More recently, literary critics have identified Modernism as “Modernisms,” a cluster of global movements composed of a myriad of genders, classes, styles, goals, modes, venues, races, politics, and ethos. It is therefore multi-voiced, multivalent, and multi-textured.

           This semester shall introduce you to the basic movements, authors, and tenets of Modernism(s) as they existed in the first few decades of the 20th Century. We shall also be considering how the attempts to bring cohesion to modernism have themselves been marked by restriction, by patriarchy, by elitism. But in order to examine such, we must involve ourselves in the "defining" agenda, we must learn the rules to see how they have been restrictive. Therefore the reading will be a classic lexicon of Modernism; with a few exceptions such as Rebecca West and Virginia Woolf, we will be studying the canonical texts that reified modernism into the Boy's Club that modernist literary studies have been working to dissemble over the last few decades. We will therefore examine the traditional aspects of the movement: a sense of privilege, stylistic inscrutability, readerly displacement, technological apprehension, and more. But the deconstruction of that traditional, monolithic definition of modernism, with all its innate prejudices and drawbacks, will be our ultimate goal.


Course Objectives: a) to introduce students to the major figures, works, and ethos of the modernist avant-garde; b) to teach students how to read through the difficulty of early modernist stylistics – a difficulty that celebrates ambiguity, displacement, discomfort, and difficulty; c) in doing so, this class shall explore the historical and cultural reasons behind this constructed stylistic difficulty by d) exploring the major political, scientific, and philosophical shifts that influenced artistic experimentation and representation.

Dr. David M. Earle

Bldg 50 rm 247

Office Hrs: M W 11-12:30, by appt