Modernism and Beyond in Contemporary British Literature
Full course description
The seminar, meant as an introduction, covers a significant spectrum of developments in Western European Literature within the 20th century, discussing predominantly British, but continental German and French authors as well.
Literature is not only an Art, related to imagination, emotions, aesthetics and experience. It is also a workshop for language, and an experimental laboratory for ideas. And it is an important part of the cultural memory of mankind.
Texts, written in bygone times, a decade, a century or many hundred years ago, still speak to, affect and inspire us, connect our presence with a common cultural heritage. Using aesthetic means and poetic intensity, narratives, poems and drama tell us as much about the past as about ourselves as human beings. This can be best explored with literary texts themselves, in reading and discussing them.
In this class students will be invited on a literary journey through cultural and artistic history, from around 1900 to the years after World War II, into Modernism, and beyond. It will be travelling back to the last century, with locations reaching from colonial Africa to Germany in the years leading to World War I, further to Dublin in the ‘old days’ before Irish independence, than London in the early 1920s and to a holyday home at the west coast of Scotland, followed by surrealist Paris and, finally, existentialist no-man’s-land. The literary topics reflect changes in culture and perception, together with personal experiences.
The seminar is based on an outstanding collection of texts, narratives, poetry and drama, strong on questions of identity, vocation and concepts of Western culture. These will be thoroughly explored together with a presentation of suitable techniques in literary criticism.
Starting with turn-of-the-century Realism and the development of a new language in literature, the class discussion will move to continental and English Modernism, reflecting the cultural shock and aftermath of World War I. Experimenting with new aesthetic concepts and ideas than leads beyond, to Surrealism, aiming to unleash the forces of the subconscious to change society. Finally, the experiences of World War II and the Holocaust result in a profound scepticism concerning the human condition, expressed in Existentialist theories and the drama of the absurd.
- Students will be given a thorough introduction to British and continental European literature in the 20th century in relation to the Western tradition.
- Students will not only become acquainted with individual works, but also with artistic movements, philosophical and cultural ideas.
- Students will learn about methods of literary criticism and aesthetics, as well as getting experience in analyzing different sorts of fictional texts.
This course is only open for Baylor University students
- Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness.
- Hermann Hesse, Demian: The Story of Emil Sinclair’s Youth [English translation]
- T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land.
- James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.
- Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse.
- André Breton, Nadja. [English translation]
- Jean Cocteau, The Holy Terrors (Les Enfants Terribles) [English translation]
- Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot.