ENGL204: Cultural and Literary Expression in Modernity

Course Syllabus for "ENGL204: Cultural and Literary Expression in Modernity"

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From Friedrich Nietzsche’s shocking pronouncement in the late 1800s that “God is dead” and that “we have killed him” to Vladimir Nabokov’s convention-challenging fiction, the Modern period—spanning roughly the end of the 19th century to the present—offered a range of provocative and often cynical cultural and literary productions.  In this course, we will work to develop a more nuanced understanding of the scope of cultural and literary expression in the late 19th and the first half of the 20th centuries and a working definition of what the vacuous-sounding term “modernism” might mean.  We will attend to broad socio-historical happenings, from the birth of modernism in the late 19th century to the radical violence of the World Wars and the tragedy of the Holocaust and arrive at the post-modern moment, our post-colonial and technologically and economically globalized village.  While offering this historical context, the course focuses on the cultural and literary movements from the “art for art’s sake” decadence of the late 1800s to the avant-garde experiments of the post-war period and beyond. In addition to literary “modernism,” the course will also take a brief look at the cultural production of “modernism” in art, music, architecture, cinema, philosophy, and drama. Yet, while the course will generally navigate late 19th and 20th century literature in the British tradition, framed by historical understanding and infused with an investigation of concomitant cultural production, we will end by briefly examining the increasingly global nature of postmodern culture, encountering the texts (and contexts) of Anglophone authors as diverse as India’s Arundhati Roy and Nigeria’s Chinua Achebe as well as taking a brief look at globalized, contemporary art and literature. Therefore, by the end of this course, we should have an advanced conceptualization of “modernism” and its many varied constructions, the major literary trends and cultural achievements of the late 19th and 20th centuries, and the socio-historical movements that shaped them, as well as an attentiveness to the impact that globalization currently has upon literature and cultural production.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, the student will be able to:

  • Define the terms “modernism” and “modernity” and explain the similarities and differences between these terms using specific works to illustrate comparison and contrast.
  • List and explain the importance of a variety of social, cultural, and historical developments leading up to and occurring during the modern period.
  • Cite and analyze the meaning of primary works of literature, poetry, art, music, architecture, cinema, philosophy and drama to illustrate the principle characteristics of “modernism.”
  • Compare and contrast the literatures of both France and England from the start of the modern era (i.e., the turn of the twentieth century).
  • Explain the impact of the Great War upon the development and expression of a variety of literary and artistic forms and especially on poetry in a number of genres.
  • Describe the aftermath of World War I and its variety of effects upon literature and art and especially upon the poetry of T.S. Eliot and the novels of Virginia Woolf and Ernest Hemingway.
  • Define “High Modernism” and give examples of the tenets, ideals, and even the contradictions and self-contradictions of this movement in history and literature (and especially in both its Irish and British contexts).
  • Define the terms “postmodernism” and “deconstruction” as well as the phrase “Magical Realism” and identify the most important characteristics of the movements, fields, theories, and texts associated with these terms.
  • Explain the premises of postcolonial literature and literary theory and identify, describe, compare, and contrast postcolonial texts from range of national origins.

Course Requirements

In order to take this course, you must:
√    Have access to a computer.

√    Have continuous broadband internet access.

√    Have the ability/permission to install plug-ins or software (e.g. Adobe Reader or Flash).

√    Have the ability to download and save files and documents to a computer.

√    Have the ability to open Microsoft files and documents (.doc, .ppt, .xls, etc.).

√    Be competent in the English language.

√    Have read the Saylor Student Handbook.

√    Have completed all courses listed in "The Core Program" of the English Discipline (ENGL101, ENGL201, ENGL202, and ENGL203).

Course Information

Welcome to ENGL204.  Below, please find some general information on the course and its requirements.
Primary Resources: This course is comprised of a range of different free, online materials.  However, the course makes primary use of the following materials:

Table of Contents: You can find the course's units at the links below.