ENGL 213 A: Modern And Postmodern Literature

Modernism after Postmodernism

Meeting Time: 
TTh 1:30pm - 3:20pm
SAV 156
Jessica Burstein
Jessica Burstein

Syllabus Description:

Modernism after Postmodernism

What did modernism do to us? Has it stopped doing it? What is the “post-” in “postmodernism” doing there? This course introduces the student to both modern and postmodern prose, mostly American and British, but with a few moments hopefully not lost in translation. The unreliable narrator, the fragmentation of time and space, the undoing of the status of the authentic in the name of the rise of the "culture of the copy"—all of these are some markers of modernism, and might well have been established before late capitalism and the 21st century rolled around.

            Moving back and forth between modern and postmodernist fiction, this class will first pair a modernist literary text with a later-born literary twin, Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway with Cunningham’s The Hours, the title of which refers to (one of) Woolf’s “original” titles for what turned into Mrs. Dalloway. The class will pay attention to imitations, forgeries, fragments, and copies in order to explore the status of the original—or whether there is an original. We will also look at the role of story-telling and its different shapes, representations of inner experience; and attune the student to matters of literary form. Reading will range from Angela Carter to Borges and contemporary writers like Jenny Offill and Ian McEwan’s latest novel, told from the perspective of a surprisingly articulate fetus. Too, we will also read one of the most important American novelists, Claire Messud, and her brand-new The Burning Girl. Messud will give a Seattle reading of this novel in November and you can experience the delight of hearing a new book as it hits the public.

            This course doesn't presume prior knowledge of literary history, but it does require that the reader be alert, assiduous and articulate. Grading is based on response papers, active participation, and 2 short papers.

Here are the novels. Do not use Kindle, please, since neurologists have told us that reading onscreen lessens our ability to retain information.

Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, ed. Mark Hussey (Mariner Books, ISBN-10: 0156030357 ISBN-13: 978-0156030359

Michael Cunningham, The Hours (Picador, ISBN-13: 978-0312243029)

Jenny Offill, Dpt of Speculation (Vintage Contemporaries, ISBN-13: 978-0345806871)

Ian McEwan, Nutshell (Nan Talese) ISBN-13: 978-1524734091

Claire Messud, The Burning Girl ISBN-13: 978-0393635027

Catalog Description: 
Introduces twentieth-century literature and contemporary literature, focusing on representative works that illustrate literary and intellectual developments since 1900.
GE Requirements: 
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Writing (W)
Last updated: 
February 6, 2018 - 9:50pm