ENGL 213 A: Modern and Postmodern Literature

Meeting Time: 
TTh 11:30am - 1:20pm
DEN 259
Jessica Burstein
Jessica Burstein

Syllabus Description:

This class will pay attention to the role of the body, in particular the representation of the female form.

  1. We begin with the idea that literary modernism in the so-called West started in the mid19th century. The so-called “East” is a vital part of modernism too. This will be engaged, but our focus is the former.
  2. Literature is one of the arts in which modernism happened; we’ll look briefly at one other art—painting—in order to consider what literature in particular can do.
  3. The focus will be on prose, but we’ll take a side swipe at some modernist poetry as well.
  4. Then we’ll take on what the “post-” in “postmodernism” is doing there, and whether we are post-post-modernism—or if modernism still has us in its grip.


  1. A major learning objective will be learning to close read. Regardless of what you do with the rest of your life, this will help you.
  2. Grading will be based on 2 papers, a series of response papers, informed classroom discussion, and quizzes.
  3. You must have the books in hard copy. Authors will definitely include (a) Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891) Norton Critical Edition, ed. Michael Patrick Gillespie ISBN: 0393927542 Other hard copy editions are ok, as long as it has Wilde’s preface, the last line of which is “All art is quite useless.” (b) Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, ed. Mark Hussey (Mariner Books, ISBN-10: 0156030357 ISBN-13: 978-0156030359)

Others may include Jenny Offill, Ali Smith, Zadie Smith, Raven Leilani.

  1. We’ll start with Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. It’s fabulous summer reading.


Some novels may contain explicit sexual language; explicit depictions of violence, some of it directed toward women; the use of racially demeaning terms, and misogynist language. Alongside a commitment to anti-racist pedagogy, I adopt Dr. Koritha Mitchell’s pedagogical practice: “The N-word is not uttered in my classes, even if it appears in the reading. We simply say N or N’s when reading passages aloud.”  http://www.korithamitchell.com/teaching-and-the-n-word/ https://soundcloud.com/c19podcast/nword

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: 
April 13, 2021 - 7:52am