English 472: Modern Fiction

This course in modernist fiction will explore one of the richest and most innovative periods in literary production. We’ll consider a number of contexts that shaped this set of literary movements, with a particular focus on new modes of perception. How did new ideas in psychology and psychoanalysis, growing cosmopolitan metropolises, and revolutions in communications media, we’ll ask, prompt modernists to experiment with new ways of seeing in fiction? We’ll see how novelists experimented with radical new ideas from Sigmund Freud and Henri Bergson, among others, and how other novelists carved out new territory for themselves as the cinema became a dominant force in popular culture. We’ll read brief selections from sociological and psychological writings and theories of modernism and modernity, alongside novels, short fiction, and a film or two. In the process, you’ll experiment with new ways of seeing the world, too. Likely authors include: Henry James, Gertrude Stein, Marcel Proust, Virginia Woolf, E.M. Forster, Nella Larsen, William Faulkner, Samuel Beckett, Ralph Ellison, Patricia Highsmith, and Vladimir Nabokov. Requirements to include several papers, a group project and presentation, in-class activities and participation, and a final exam.