English 40-1 - Winter, 2020

Introductory Topics in Literature

    Topic: A Beginner's Guide to Modernism

Class Information

Instructor: Dobbins, Gregory
CRN: 55203
Time: MWF 1:10-2:00
Location: 1120 Hart


    Virginia Woolf once famously wrote "On or about December 1910 human character changed." While one might establish that date slightly earlier, Woolf indicates here that something suddenly changed in the nature of artistic representation at the beginning of the twentieth-century, whether in regard to the visual arts, music, philosophy, or literature. Modernism marked the inception of a moment in cultural history in which everything (to paraphrase Ezra Pound) needed to be made new again. Stylistic changes characterized by abstraction, experimentation, and obscurity became widespread, and the effect was so influential that Modernism continues to exert an impact upon the world of art more than one hundred years later. Yet Modernism continues to present great difficulties to the contemporary reader due to its emphasis on complexity. This course will serve as a beginner's introduction to Modernism committed to the demystification of its underlying complexity. We will consider a wide range of writers important to the development of Modernist experimentation (W.B. Yeats, Ezra Pound, H.D. and the Imagists, T.S. Eliot, Rebecca West, Virginia Woolf, Flann O'Brien, and Samuel Beckett) and also consider the significance of Modernist painting and music (Picasso, Kandinsky, Stravinsky).


    Participation, short writing assignments concerning the close reading of poetry and non-literary artistic mediums, take-home mid-term essay, final essay, and final exam.


    Concerning the Spiritual in Art, Wassily Kandinsky
    The Third Policeman, Flann O'Brien
    Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett
    Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf