This course is a survey of modernist fiction, with a twist. The content consists primarily of novels published between 1907 and 1953, by authors such as Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, James Baldwin, John dos Passos, Joseph Conrad, and Aldous Huxley. While reading these texts, we will focus less on giving literary modernism a single definition and more on the divergent ways it can be articulated through aesthetics, history, culture, and place. Since modernism is such a broad topic, we will narrow our attention to three lines of modernist inquiry: an obsession with what’s new, depictions of the city and urbanization, and the rise of certain media and technologies in the first half of the 20th century. That said, film, audio recordings, advertisements, and some poetry will supplement modernist novels throughout the quarter.
With a twist. And that twist is this: “Modernism Now” is also an opportunity for undergraduates to gain hands-on competencies in using digital tools and web-based platforms for humanities inquiry, specifically the study of modernist fiction. During one class meeting per week, we will investigate how to produce sustainable digital scholarship through new media and their intersections with several stages of the writing process, including conducting research, gathering evidence, and composing arguments. By the quarter’s end, students will gain knowledge in how to use the following for academic purposes: Twitter, the WordPress blogging platform, the Zotero research tool, Flickr’s Library of Congress photostream, the Modernist Journals Project, JSTOR’s Data for Research visualizations, UbuWeb, and Google Maps. No previous experience with any of these platforms, tools, or archives is required.
Since English 242 is a “W” course, students will be asked to iteratively develop and revise a web-based, ten- to fifteen-page research paper on a topic of their choice (within the domain of modernist fiction). By “iteratively develop,” I imply that students will gradually compose their paper as a project over the entirety of the quarter, instead of writing a bulk of it at the end. I will ask them to incorporate an annotated bibliography, an abstract, and plenty of collaboration and conversation into that process.