English 203

Graduate Readings: Modernism and Film

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
2 Fall 2013 Goble, Mark
MW 4-5:30 103 Wheeler

Book List

Agee, James and Walker Evans: Let Us Now Praise Famous Men; Dos Passos, John: Manhattan Transfer; Erickson, Steve: Zeroville; Faulkner, William: Sanctuary; Fitzgerald, F. Scott: Tender Is the Night; Gibson, William: Pattern Recognition; Loos, Anita: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and But Gentlemen Marry Brunettes; West, Nathanael: Miss Lonelyhearts and the Day of the Locust; Woolf, Virginia: To the Lighthouse


This course surveys a range of twentieth-century texts that allow us to explore connections between film and modernist literary practice, and the cultural implications of cinema for the period as a whole. Working with a broad conception of modernism that includes literature, film, and media theory from before and after 1945, we will pursue a series of issues that situate twentieth-century literature alongside the various media technologies that informed it, with special attention to the contours of urban experience in modern life, new psychologies of perception and temporality, and attempts to make the very limits of violence, sexuality, and history itself visible in the work of art. We will orient our discussions with readings of classic modernist accounts of film by Walter Benjmain, Siegfried Kracauer, Rudolf Arnheim, and others; we will also use these texts to provide a context for larger debates about modernism in writings by Stanley Cavell, Clement Greenberg, and Rosalind Krauss, as well as recent work in media theory and media archaeology by Friedrich Kittler, Wolfgang Ernst, and Lev Manovich.

Besides the books listed above, we may read poetry of T. S. Eliot, William Carlos Williams, H. D., Gertrude Stein, and Frank O’Hara. Our films will include shorts by Edison, the Lumière Brothers, and George Méliès; silent features by D. W. Griffith, F. W. Murnau and Dziga Vertov. Possible screenings will also include The Jazz Singer, Rome: Open City, Singing in the Rain, and 2001: A Space Odyssey and avant garde films by Maya Deren, Stan Brakhage, Michael Snow, and Tacita Dean.

This course satisfies the Group 5 (20th century) requirement.


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