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4410 British Literature to 1500

4450 The Age of Johnson, 1744-1790


4460 The Romantic Period: 1790-1837

4480 The Modernist Period in British Literature

101 TTH 3:30-4:45 Professor Leah Flack

Course Title: British Modernism – Modernist Writing in a World at War

Course Description: In a century of unprecedented global wars, artists working in a variety of media struggled against the incommensurability of art to unspeakable violence. The psychological and physical traumas of war created new representational crises for artists who discovered that traditional forms were ill-equipped to respond to or represent the realities of twentieth-century wars, which included trench warfare, shellshock, concentration camps, and mass graves. The narratives of the past were both inadequate for representing war in an industrialized world at the mercy of its technology and were implicated, as American poet Ezra Pound suggests, in nurturing a “love of slaughter” in the modern imagination. In this thematic study of modernist writing, we will ask how and why war fueled an outburst of literary creativity and experimentation in the years surrounding the two World Wars.

We will explore several features of representations of war in literature in this period: the celebratory, commemorative, and protest functions of literature; representations of the body in war narratives; representations of various forms of psychological, physical, and cultural damage caused by war; the difficulty of return and recovery from war; and war’s challenges to traditional narrative forms as writers struggle to define, as Tim O’Brien writes, “how to tell a true war story.”

Most of the class will be spent examining literature in relation to the World Wars and the Irish struggle for independence. We will read a constellation of later works in dialogue with modernist texts. We will also view two films, at least one of which will be outside of class; students should expect to attend at least one screening outside of class. Active, informed engagement and participation in class is a requirement of all students.

Readings: Poems by W.B. Yeats, H.D., Ezra Pound, e.e. cummings, Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen, Rupert Brooke; The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West; The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot; “The Fly” by Katherine Mansfield; Paths of Glory by Stanley Kubrick; Jacob’s Room and Between the Acts by Virginia Woolf; Catch-22 by Joseph Heller; Regeneration by Pat Barker; Cathleen ni Houlihan by W.B. Yeats; The Rising of the Moon by Lady Gregory; James Joyce, “Ivy Day in the Committee Room”; The Playboy of the Western World by J.M. Synge; Juno and the Paycock by Sean O’Casey; Endgame by Samuel Beckett. Secondary readings by Paul Fussell, Elaine Scarry, Chris Hedges, Walter Benjamin, and others.

Assignments: 2 papers (1 3-5 page paper; 1 7-10 page paper), 1 short creative paper in response to war in music and film, weekly D2L posts, one presentation, final exam, active and informed participation in class discussions.

4520 American Literature from 1798-1865

4560 The Contemporary Period in American Literature: 1945 to Present

4610 Individual Authors

4630 Shakespeare's Major Plays

4710 Studies in Genre










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