08 July 2008


British Modernism, or Late-Imperial Literary London

NDNU: Summer 2008

TTh 6:30-9:30 PM

Course Description:

In recent years, the term “British Modernism” has come under intense scrutiny. The inadequacies of the term are legion: its main practitioners were not British; the period in question was better characterized by a series of literary and philosophical debates between its members rather than developments within a current; and its beginnings and its ends have yet to be fully or satisfactorily marked. These interventions have demonstrated three itineraries for modernism: the first, heading out towards the continent (usually Paris) and circulating with developments in French, German, Russian, and Italian letters; the second, coming from America, using London as an entrepot occasionally for all things European, but mostly for Englishness proper; and the third, heading out towards and back from the Caribbean, African, and Asian colonies. That traffic had as its consequence certain changes to aesthetic and literary conventions which marked out modernism as a style and a period, but these conventions have been called into question by asking whether what counts as modernism in London should count for modernism everywhere. Finally, new considerations of book history have begun to challenge certain notions of modernism (especially the divide between highbrow and lowbrow culture) as they have investigated how the rise of a massive publishing industry opened up and simultaneously limited access to experimental writing. This class will ask whether this reorganization of literary traffic alters our conceptions of the output of what we will call Late-Imperial Literary London; we will pay careful consideration to changes in generic, stylistic, and thematic concerns that result from our reorganization of these texts. Our study of the literature of this period will be grounded in close attention to the texts; class discussions will be supplemented with occasional short lectures.


  • Achebe, Things Fall Apart
  • Anand, Untouchable
  • Barnes, Nightwood
  • Braithwaite, Selected Poems
  • Conrad, Heart of Darkness
  • Eliot, Selected Poems
  • James, The Outcry
  • Joyce, Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man
  • Lawrence, Selected Short Stories
  • Pound, Selected Poems
  • Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea
  • Stein, Selected Poems
  • Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway
  • Yeats, Selected Poems


  • July 8, 10: Introductions and fin-de-siecle literary London (from decadence to modernism); also Why did Modernism begin outside of England?: Conrad and James
  • July 15, 17: Homegrown modernism; or Reactions to the growth of the world’s first mega-city: Lawrence and Woolf
  • July 22, 24: American Anglophilia; poets in search of new homes: Eliot and Pound
  • July 29, 31: American women, French locales, British modernism: Stein and Barnes
  • August 5, 7: Irishmen and their English masters: Yeats and Joyce
  • August 12, 14: The colonial subject in the metropolis: Anand and Achebe
  • August 19, 21: Caribbean English: Braithwaite and Rhys

Course Assignments:

  • Contributions to the course blog 10%
  • Class Presentations 30%
  • Write-ups of presentations (3-4 pages) 10%
  • Final paper (15-20 pages) 50%

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