English 250

Research Seminar: Ethnic Modernisms

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
2 Fall 2016 Lee, Steven S.
Tues. 3:30-6:30 129 Barrows

Book List

McKay, C: Banjo; Toomer, J: Cane


This seminar will explore the convergence of modernist and ethnic cultures in twentieth-century America and Europe, placing race and ethnicity in dialogue with the modernist compulsion to "make it new" and the avant-gardist compulsion to bring art into life.  The aim of these juxtapositions will be to arrive at new understandings of both ethnicity and modernism--specifically, new ways of thinking about these terms in relation to space, time, identity, and aesthetics.  After gaining a firm grounding in critical race theory and theories of modernism and the avant-garde, we will examine a wide range of novels, poems, films, and paintings.  Our focus will be on American minority artists drawn to modernist experimentation (for instance, Langston Hughes’s translations of Vladimir Mayakovsky), but also on modernist engagement with non-Western cultures (for instance, Pablo Picasso’s incorporation of African masks).  How do the aims of ethnic literature (cultural recognition, the disruption of canons) correspond with the aims of modernism and the avant-garde?  How does the juxtaposition of these terms help us to see beyond the fissures contained within each, as well as to bridge the larger divide between art and politics?

Most readings will be distributed via bCourses.  We'll definitely be reading McKay's Banjo and Toomer's Cane; other texts for purchase will be announced at the first class meeting.

This course satisfies the Group 5 (Twentieth Century) or Group 6 (Non-historical) requirement.

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