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Modernism and its Others


Module description

The first half of the twentieth century is famous for its literary colossuses: T. S. Eliot, James Joyce, Ezra Pound. But what does it look like at a century’s distance? We can now see the magnitude of these achievements in the context of an explosion of cultural activity in numerous domains. The growth of women’s writing and feminism, queer literature, popular bestsellers and film adaptations, the ‘golden age’ of detective fiction, and the diverse cultural products of non-white and non-anglophone writers.

This module will require you to ask what 'modern' can mean in relation to literary, visual and material cultures, and to investigate the claims of novelty and radicalism that some of these works claim. We will study the historical and social conceptions of the role of the writer, the reader and of literature itself. The module aims to provide you with a methodology for studying modernism and the other kinds of textual materials that sit alongside it: it will equip you with the research tools and conceptual structures to study twentieth-century literature and culture in depth.

Indicative module syllabus

  • Novelty and canonicity
  • High, low and middlebrow culture
  • Class and politics
  • Race and reform
  • Difficulty and pleasure
  • Feminism and authority
  • Sexuality and queerness
  • Colonialism and cultural power
  • Collecting and buying
  • Form and its discontents
  • Experiment and the material text
  • Polyglottism and native tongue

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will be able to:

  • understand and critique the formal qualities of modernist literature
  • analyse the relationship between literary modernism and its socio-historical context
  • show an extensive appreciation of literary cultures between 1890-1940
  • discuss ideas of value and audience
  • close read complex, unfamiliar and formally unusual works
  • utilise research tools and conceptual structures for studying twentieth-century literature in depth
  • conduct and present a coherent research process into a cultural area
  • write an essay combining the skills of research, close reading, contextual analysis, and discussion of themes and form.