Late Modernism in British Literature
Description of English 540: Late Modernism
This seminar will investigate what happened to British Literature after “High Modernism” had reached its zenith. We tend to forget that Woolf and Eliot continued writing long past 1922, that banner year that saw the publication of The Waste Land, Ulysses, and Jacob’s Room. How did the works of Woolf and Eliot, in particular, change under the impact of the profound social changes brought about by the Depression and the onset of World War II? What happens to the kinds of experimentation associated with literary modernism when we look at their later writings within the context of the younger generation of British writers who were publishing at the same time, such as W.H. Auden, Christopher Isherwood, Elizabeth Bowen, and George Orwell? We will especially be concerned with how the breaking-down of the power of the British Empire is manifested in some of the texts we will be reading. Jed Esty’s A Shrinking Island, Modernism and National Culture in England will give us a useful framework for questioning, in his view, how “English intellectuals translated the end of empire into a resurgent concept of national culture.” The reading for the course will include in addition to Jed Esty, the following: Virginia Woolf, Between the Acts; T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets and Selected Prose; W. S. Auden, Selected Poems; Christopher Isherwood, Goodbye to Berlin; Elizabeth Bowen, Death of the Heart; George Orwell, Collection of Essays, and 1984.
[If students have never read any works by Woolf and Eliot, I suggest reading Mrs. Dalloway (or To the Lighthouse) and The Waste Land during Spring Break.]