English 149 - Winter, 2019

Topics in Literature

    Topic: Mysticism, Magic, & Modernism

Class Information

Instructor: Dobbins, Gregory
CRN: 33288
Time: TR 4:40-6:00
Location: 1134 Bainer


    In the late nineteenth-century-- and possibly as a direct response to the widespread acceptance of increasingly rational or scientific explanations of existence-- mysticism, magic, and alternative forms of spirituality emerged as areas of interest and commitment within various sub-cultures throughout the world. On one side of the spectrum were the Theosophists-- a loosely organized group of progressive mystics inspired by the mysterious Russian occultist Madame Helena Blavatsky who sought to find unity between all religious and scientific systems evident in the world. On the other side of the spectrum were esoteric, secretive organizations like the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, who attempted to revive different forms of magic for more individualist purposes. Among the many aspects of our contemporary culture which might be traced in part back to the competing movements of Theosophy and Esotericism over one hundred years ago-- which include such disparate topics as veganism, quantum mechanics, Jungian psychology, various self-help movements, feminism, animal rights activism, and even (possibly!) baseball and underground heavy metal music-- was a revolution in artistic representation which ultimately came to be known as Modernism. This course will seek to rediscover the mystical and magical roots of Modernism through an examination of the links between Theosophy, Occultism, and artistic experimentation.


    The course grade will be determined by two essays (5-7 pages each), short writing assignments, a final exam, participation, and occasional quizzes.


    The Rider Tarot Deck, A.E. Waite
    The Pictorial Key to the Tarot, A.E. Waite
    Concerning the Spiritual in Art, Wassily Kandinsky
    Collected Poems, W.B. Yeats
    The White People and other Weird Stories, Arthur Machen
    The Damned, J-K Huysmans
    The Waste Land, T.S. Eliot
    Trilogy, H.D.