English 20

Modern British and American Literature: Music and Literary Modernism

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Spring 2014 Le, Serena
TTh 3:30-5 187 Dwinelle

Book List

Eliot, T. S.: Collected Poems, 1909-1962; Fitzgerald, F. Scott: The Great Gatsby; Shaw, George Bernard: Pygmalion

Other Readings and Media

A course reader will be made available containing the following:

Selected poems by Gerard Manley Hopkins, W.B. Yeats, James Joyce, Mina Loy, W.H. Auden, Ezra Pound, Wallace Stevens, and Langston Hughes; selected short stories and prose excerpts by James Joyce and Virginia Woolf; selected critical writings by Walter Pater, Wilhelm Fürtwangler, Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, George Bernard Shaw, Roland Barthes, Arnold Schönberg, Northrop Frye, Henry Cowell, and Luigi Russolo; contemporary critical writings on sound, text, music, and poetry.

There will be a course website for multimedia content, and we will also host screenings of My Fair Lady (1938 and 1964 adaptations) and Baz Luhrmann's adaptation of The Great Gatsby (2013).


“All art,” wrote English critic Walter Pater in 1877, “constantly aspires to the condition of music.” In this course, we will launch our own investigation into music’s influence on British and American modernist writers as they grappled with the political, social, and technological upheavals of the early twentieth century. By pairing our reading of seminal modernist works with attendance at performances similar to those lauded (or, in some cases, derided) by our authors, we will ask ourselves how exactly music might be defined with respect to a literary text, and to what degree our perception of what is musical relies on our own experiences as audience members and listeners.

This course is funded by a generous grant from Cal Performances and the Mellon Foundation. In addition to regular class sessions, we will be attending eleven Cal Performances concerts throughout the semester. We will also host composers and performers working at the intersection of course themes. Students will lead discussion, keep concert-going journals, and produce a culminating project consisting of a written element, an aural element, and a conference-style presentation.

Due to limited space and mandatory attendance at performances (except when in conflict with a student's own performing ensemble requirements), enrollment will be by instructor approval. There are no prerequisites, and tickets for all performances will be fully paid for by the course. Interested students should fill out and return a Declaration of Interest and Ability to Enroll form (available for download here). Forms must be returned to Serena Le's mailbox in 330 Wheeler, or via e-mail attachment to serena.le@berkeley.edu.

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