ENGL 540 A: Modern Literature

British and American Modernism

Meeting Time: 
TTh 3:30pm - 5:20pm
MGH 097
Sydney Kaplan
Sydney Kaplan

Syllabus Description:

“The Architecture of Hurry”:  British Modernists Confronting “Modernity”

This seminar will consider how British writers during the first three decades of the twentieth century responded to the social, cultural, and technological changes that were rapidly transforming their lives. The prevalent belief that modern industrialized society was in a state of crisis intensified during the years leading up to the Great War, which intensified a mood of increasing anxiety about the future of civilization.   Virginia Woolf’s famous remark that “on or about December, 1910, human character changed,” suggests that the process of modernization had impacted interiority itself.  Significantly, for Woolf and other modernists, this awakening to a new world called for correspondingly new approaches to the writing of fiction and poetry, which we will explore through reading works by T. S. Eliot, D. H. Lawrence, Katherine Mansfield, Aldous Huxley, and of course, by Woolf,  herself.

The emphasis on interiority that characterizes several of these works is paralleled by the growth of psychoanalysis during this period—as an explanatory tool for both individual and social malaise—and it will be one focus of our attention in this seminar.  Another will be on changing attitudes about class, sexuality, gender roles and family relationships.  Depending upon the interests of members of the seminar, we might also explore other issues in relation to these texts, such as the conflicted history of modernist canon formation, the significance of personal relationships and coteries in literary production, contemporary British politics, science, anthropology, and popular culture. 


M. Forster, Howards End; D. H. Lawrence, The Rainbow; Katherine Mansfield, Selected Stories, T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land and Other Poems; Aldous Huxley, Point Counter Point.

Last updated: 
October 17, 2018 - 10:00pm