English 166

Special Topics: Global Catastrophe and Modern Literature

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Session Course Areas
2 Summer 2020 Nathan, Jesse
TTh 2-5 C


Global crisis defined the first part of the twentieth century. Pandemic illness and catastrophic economic collapse, along with World War after World War, meant it was a time rife with ethnic, racial, imperial, and political tensions, and a time also of mass displacement and personal upheaval. All of which this class takes as its starting point and backdrop for a focus upon some of the great works of literature produced in the English-speaking world during that tumultuous time.

In this course, students will encounter major works of British and U.S. prose and poetry (from James Joyce and Gertrude Stein to Langston Hughes, Virginia Woolf, Jean Toomer, T.S. Eliot, and others) of the so-called modern era. Taking a transatlantic look at innovative writing in the early 20th century meant to challenge readers in both form and theme, we will unpack what makes a modernist text modernist, what some of the intellectual roots of the movement may be, and what kinds of meanings have been ascribed to it – both in its moment and in our time.

We'll read key works—fiction and poetry—by James Joyce, William Faulkner, Willa Cather, Virginia Woolf, Ernest Hemingway, Katherine Mansfield, Langston Hughes, T.S. Eliot, William Carlos Williams, Robert Frost, Jean Toomer, Sterling Brown, Gertrude Stein, Charles Reznikoff, W.H. Auden, and others.

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