English 250

Research Seminar: Modernist Critical Prose

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
6 Fall 2008 Blanton, Dan
W 3-6 204 Wheeler

Other Readings and Media

"T. S. Eliot, For Lancelot Andrewes, The Idea of a Christian Society; T. E. Hulme, Speculations; J. M. Keynes, The Economic Consequences of the Peace; D. H. Lawrence, Apocalypse; Wyndham Lewis, Blast; Time and Western Man; The Art of Being Ruled; Ezra Pound,ABC of Economics, Guide to Kulchur; Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas; W. B. Yeats, A Vision

Other possible readings include works by W. H. Auden, Julien Benda, William Empson, Roger Fry, Edmund Husserl, Georg Luk?cs, Karl Mannheim, F. T. Marinetti, John Crowe Ransom, I. A. Richards, Laura Riding, Jean-Paul Sartre, Carl Schmitt, Ernst Troeltsch, Leon Trotsky, Raymond Williams, among others."


"It is an odd fact of modernist literary history that a large number of the period?s major figures produced as much critical prose--by turns polemical, self-authorizing, speculative, outlandish, and extreme--as poetry or fiction. Scaling from aesthetic criticism to philosophical argument and cultural critique, this most ubiquitous but overlooked of modernist genres is often quoted secondarily, but rarely read on its own discursive terms. This seminar will attempt to do just that, sampling some of the period?s prosaic experiments in a seemingly minor and distinctly non-autonomous literary form: reviews, lectures, essays, tracts, treatises, and quasi-academic squabbles.

Moving from early avant-garde manifestoes to late modernist critical primers, we will grapple first with the modernist practice of criticism, tracing the period?s attempt to construct (and enforce) its own interpretive apparatus and criticism?s encroachment on a number of adjoining discursive fields, from economics to theology. We will next shift our attention to two of criticism?s cognate terms, briefly sampling some of the rhetorics of ?crisis? (of enlightenment, of perception, of semblance, of historicism, of parliamentary democracy, of European sciences) that so frequently emerge as descriptions of the moment, before turning to several versions of the corollary idea of ?critique?. We will conclude with a consideration of one of the most contradictory and totalizing of the period?s emergent concepts, that of culture. Might modernism be said to constitute (among other things) an attempt at a systematic critique of culture: what Ezra Pound called ?kulchur? and T. S. Eliot conceived as ?a whole way of life?? And how might such an understanding alter our sense of its aesthetic project?"

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