31 July 2008


I may be missing something very obvious, but one question I have while reading Stein and Barnes concerns why they are considered a part of "British" modernism. What definition of "British" do either of them fit? I read that Barnes wrote Nightwood in Devonshire, however Paris (and the U.S.) seem to be much more central to these writers than England. Still, does "British" mean much more than location? If so, what does it mean?

The other issue I've been pondering centers around their homosexuality/bisexuality, in particular the seeming lack of discussion around it. There seems to be more talk of D.H. Lawrence as sexually scandalous. I was surprised to hear that Gertrude and Alice were such popular celebrities and yet so out in their sexuality. Did people at the time look the other way? Would it have been much different for two men?

More on Stein

Thanks to everyone for allowing me the opportunity to share my understanding of Tender Buttons. For anyone interested in hearing her read OBJECTS, you can do so FREE at: http://beemp3.com/download.php?file=205371&song=1+-+Objects.

After going back through my notes, I wanted to leave you with these thoughts:

-Stein is not worried about making sense, but rather "how" to make sense
-Meaning is a byproduct of repeated encounters with her text
-Tender Buttons provides no answers, it's distinction being to establish relationships that we never knew existed
-Become aware that no 2 words are ever exactly the same

Finally, I found this quote by Wallace Fowlie published Dec. 22nd, 1956 in the Saturday Review most appropriate:

"For this is poetry about poetry...A word used by Gertrude Stein does not designate a thing as much as it designates the way in which the thing is possessed, or the way in which the thing is destroyed, or the way whereby the poets has learned to live with it."

Tender Buttons

I'd like to thank J.C  for that extremely informative and helpful presentation on Tender Buttons, without which I probably would have been lost.  I would like to further ponder her use of words in Objects and whether there are certain words which are masculine, vs others which are feminine.  Notice how she pairs words, such as, Galzed Glitter, Dirt and not Copper, Nothing Elegant.  I highly believe the paring of words have something to do with male-female couplings, etc. Almost like she gives the words gender roles.  Any thoughts on that? 

Stein and Repetition

After thinking over "Tender Buttons" and our class discussion of Tuesday, I'm still having trouble understanding the purpose of Stein's use of repetition. I don't see how writing the same word (such as "yes") over and over makes a poem. As Emilie stated in class, if we were to do this and turn it in to a creative writing class, we'd get an F.

I cannot help but wonder if Stein was published and rose to fame more because of who she was than because of what she was doing.

30 July 2008

Gertrude Stein's influence

For details about the legacy of Stein's poetry on American poets and poetics, check out this entry in Wikipedia about the Language Poets of the 1960s and 1970s. Perhaps of interest to some may be how Stein's prestige influenced women: women were more than half of the Language Poetry movement. Incidentally, E.E. Cummings was another who was deeply influenced by Stein.

Djuna Barnes

While I am loath to recommend using Wikipedia as an authoritative source, I found its entry on Djuna Barnes quite useful. You can read it here. Pay attention to the deatails about its publishing history (how Faber and Faber published it, with an introduction by TS Eliot, in an expensive edition, etc.)

29 July 2008

The Metro

In A Station Of The Metro by Ezra Pound
The apparition of these faces in the crowd;

Petals on a wet, black bough.

When I first read this poem, I wasn't impressed. It was short, uncomplicated and it didn't even rhyme;but as we discussed it further in class it grew more interesting with each reading. I thought it was very clever to incorporate the title as part of the poem;by providing a place where the poem is occurring. There are no excess words, every syllable contributes to the picture Pound is creating. Next, I could visualize the metro and all the faces of the passengers start to blur and become ghosts before my eyes. Their features becoming hazy and they begin to resemble each other like the petals. The petals are not identical but they are so similar that it would be difficult to tell them apart. It is a very vivid image and I find it amazing since the description is so short. Then the metro and the bough are being compared. It's a very elegant comparison juxtaposing nature and machine against each other. I have grown to like this poem very much.

The poem has left an image on my brain.


Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, Head of Ezra Pound


Marcel Duchamp, Nude Descending a Staircase, 1912

It's important to consider the differences between cubism and vorticism, despite the similarities in some aspects of their styles (the hard, sharp lines; the interest in movement; the estrangement of the visual field by reorganizing the picture plane; etc.)

25 July 2008

Gertrude Stein

For Tuesday's class, we will read Gertrude Stein's Tender Buttons, which is available entirely online here. Please do start work on Djuna Barnes' Nightwood (which does take a little bit of effort to get into). I haven't been able to locate an online version, so you may need to order it from an online bookseller if you haven't already located a copy.

23 July 2008

More on TS Eliot

Since we talked a little about Eliot's politics on Tuesday, I thought some of you might find the following useful. It's an extract from a longer piece by Terry Eagleton on Eliot's politics and poetics published in the London Review of Books:

"Yet as one who had never believed in liberalism, Romanticism or humanism in the first place, he was energised as well as alarmed by the cataclysm. It may have helped to put him into a sanatorium, but it also turned his thoughts towards a constructive solution. If civilisation lay in ruins, then there was a momentous opportunity to sweep away this heap of broken images and start afresh. Or rather, start once more with the good old things, moving forward to a classical, orderly, tradition-bound past in the face of that squalid cult of anarchic subjectivism, self-expressive personality, economic laissez-faire, Protestant ‘inner light’ and Bolshevik subversion which Eliot lumped together with cavalier indiscriminateness under the name of ‘Whiggery’.

"This Janus-faced temporality, in which one turns to the resources of the pre-modern in order to move backwards into a future that has transcended modernity altogether, is at the heart of Modernism. The pre-modern in Eliot’s poetry is a matter of Fisher Kings and fertility cults; in his prose it is a question of classical order, Tory traditionalism and the Christian church. In both cases, however, a discredited individualism must yield to a more corporate form of being, roughly at the time when laissez-faire capitalism was giving way to its international monopoly version. Whether as slain god or submissive Christian, the point of having a self is to give it away. It is the Romantic-humanist heresy which holds that we should nurture our egos rather than abnegate them. ‘Tradition’ is the order to which the poet must perpetually surrender his selfhood, and writing a poem involves an extinction of personality rather than an affirmation of it. It is no accident that Eliot wrote his doctoral thesis on the philosopher F.H. Bradley, late Victorian deconstructor of the autonomous self. As a rootless, sexually ambiguous American √©migr√© turned pin-striped London banker, his own personal version of that entity had been in question for some time."

Pound poems

As promised, here are the Pound poems that we are going to cover:

I'm working off the New Directions Paperbook edition of Selected Poems of Ezra Pound, but you should feel free to work from any edition. Be wary of some of the on-line versions of the poems which are not always reliable.

22 July 2008

Just a wee thought

I just have a brief comment.  I notice that we spent considerable time discussing Gerald and Gudrun, then Ursula.  Birkin got some mention, but it seemed to be more in passing.  Our interest was more on the other three.  Perhaps it's cliche, but were the other more topical because of the violent oddities of their characters?  Birkin seems to be least violent of the four.  Throwing rocks at the moon is somewhat silly; wrestling with Gerald was mildly erotic.  Most of the time, Birkin seems to be the one on the receiving end of the violence whether physical (Hermione/Ursula) or social (the letter scene).  Even his description makes him seem as if he's barely present in this world.  I recall I liked him, but wanted him to act out or something.  I can't say that what bursts of passion he had were all that explosive.  His search for love is an universal theme, but is it because he is so abstract and ethereal that we gravitate to the more concrete characters?

Sisters in love

What I found to be interesting was the dynamics between the two sisters. They were modern women who found themselves in unfamiliar roles in a changing and redeveloping society. They were fighting against old conventions such as marriage with support from each other only. Their father was not a source of any inspiration or help. He was an example of the old world before modernization was a reality. The disfunctional relationship with their father translated into their personal relationships with their men. In one case it was clear that Gerald was not in love with Gudrun. Gudrun, instead of moving on and finding someone new; stayed with him and drove him to suicide. On the other hand Ursula marries a man that is in love with another man. Both relationships completely devoid of any real emotion or love.

The situation was very different when it came to their sisterhood. They spoke to each other in clear, concise and meaningful language. They understood each other. The communication they shared between each other didn't have any double meaning or traces of hostility. They may have thought or felt some frustration with each other every now and then. But they respected each other enough to keep it to themselves. They would think before they spoke to each other. They didn't do this in any other instance with any other character in the book. They afforded each other kindness and consideration. They were there for each other through all the trials. They could depend on each other. Their relationship was the only example that came close to real love.

Lawrence, and literary industrialism

For those of you who missed class last week, we spent quite a bit of time talking about the relationship between technology, organic life, industrialization, and Lawrence’s own peculiar views about the relationship between sexuality, alienation, and life under industrialized, urban society. One of the complications and contradictions in Lawrence is that the fierce attention he gives to the individual (really a product of certain kinds of aggressive bourgeois liberal ideologies) cuts against his pre-lapsarian anti-capitalism.

We spent some time thinking about what this contradiction means in places like Chapter 17 (The Industrial Magnate), where the problems of technology (mechanization, mindless repetition, inhuman organization) become closely related to Lawrence’s own project of writing and describing unalienated human life, in fact are only possible because Lawrence can feel (but perhaps not resolve) the tension between writing against modernity in the very terms of modernity, for audiences shaped by modernity, in a necessarily modern medium. The following passage was useful for thinking about some of those issues:

“Immediately he SAW the firm, he realised what he could do. He had a fight to fight with Matter, with the earth and the coal it enclosed. This was the sole idea, to turn upon the inanimate matter of the underground, and reduce it to his will. And for this fight with matter, one must have perfect instruments in perfect organisation, a mechanism so subtle and harmonious in its workings that it represents the single mind of man, and by its relentless repetition of given movement, will accomplish a purpose irresistibly, inhumanly. It was this inhuman principle in the mechanism he wanted to construct that inspired Gerald with an almost religious exaltation. He, the man, could interpose a perfect, changeless, godlike medium between himself and the Matter he had to subjugate. There were two opposites, his will and the resistant Matter of the earth. And between these he could establish the very expression of his will, the incarnation of his power, a great and perfect machine, a system, an activity of pure order, pure mechanical repetition, repetition ad infinitum, hence eternal and infinite. He found his eternal and his infinite in the pure machine-principle of perfect co-ordination into one pure, complex, infinitely repeated motion, like the spinning of a wheel; but a productive spinning, as the revolving of the universe may be called a productive spinning, a productive repetition through eternity, to infinity. And this is the Godmotion, this productive repetition ad infinitum. And Gerald was the God of the machine, Deus ex Machina. And the whole productive will of man was the Godhead.

“He had his life-work now, to extend over the earth a great and perfect system in which the will of man ran smooth and unthwarted, timeless, a Godhead in process. He had to begin with the mines. The terms were given: first the resistant Matter of the underground; then the instruments of its subjugation, instruments human and metallic; and finally his own pure will, his own mind. It would need a marvelous adjustment of myriad instruments, human, animal, metallic, kinetic, dynamic, a marvellous casting of myriad tiny wholes into one great perfect entirety. And then, in this case there was perfection attained, the will of the highest was perfectly fulfilled, the will of mankind was perfectly enacted; for was not mankind mystically contra-distinguished against inanimate Matter, was not the history of mankind just the history of the conquest of the one by the other?”

A quick primer on DH Lawrence

The Guardian online did a quick little summary of DH Lawrence's life, work, and reception in their online edition. You can check it out here.

21 July 2008

The Question of Power

Sorry I couldn't be there for the Women in Love discussions. Just some thoughts. For me one of the dominant themes throughout the book was the constant struggle for power between the male and female characters. It seemed there was almost never an interaction among between characters of the opposite sex where the issue of power and/or dominance did not arise. This was especially true in the Gudrun-Gerald relationship but it's also seen in relation to Birkin and Hermione and Birkin and Ursula.

It even shows up briefly in the brief relationship between Gerald and Pussum where Lawrencew observes that "Her (Pussum) being suffused into his veins like a magnetic darkness and concentrated at thye base of his spine like a fearful source or power."

Gerald draws power from Gudrun. He is renewed by making love to her in the Death and Love chapter "All his veins that were murdered and lacerated, healed softly as life came pulsing in...He was a man again, strong and rounded." he both loves and ultimately hates Gudrun for the power she has over him.

For her part, Gudrun is constantly at war with Gerald's power over her. In the Continentals chapter after the dance, although she teases him about the power he had over the young German girl, she is awed and frightened by the power he seems to have over women. "The deep resolve formed in her to combat him. One of them must triumph over the other." Leter as they were talking "she turned aside, breaking the spell. In some strange way, she felt he was getting power over her." Later it disturbs her to have him standing there watching her fix her hair and she resorts to a small ruse to get him to paw through her pourse looking for a small box. This in some way returned the power to her, "She had the whip hand," and later "And Gudrun slept strongly, a victorious sleep."

The Birkin-Hermione relationship was one where she was constantly bending him to her will, giving direction or jeering or mocking him. Lawrence observes that even with the male cat she has to assume the upper hand "It was always the same this joy in power she manifested, particularly power over every male being."

The Birkin-Ursula relationship has similar, thopugh more subtle, overtones. Early on Birkin sees power in Ursula "She was rich, full of dangerous power. She was like a strange unconscious bud of powereful womanhood." Initially Birkin refuses to tell her he loves her because he needs more than just conventional love. Ultimately he does her bidding just as he did Hermione's. In the Flitting chapter he not only tells her he loves her - in response to her prodding-- but like Gerald finds that he draws power and sustenence from her. "This marriage with her was his resurrection and his life."

Linguistics in Women in Love

I wanted to follow up our very brief discussion about the way Lawrence uses language and discourse in regard to repetition. In an article entitled Linguistic Incantation and Parody in Women in Love written by Jack Stewart, the author says:

"Language achieves a kind of presence through repetition, incantation, and refraction, evoking for the reader more meaning than is actually conveyed in the text...Lawrence says that he uses repetition to show how biorhythmic impulses are sublimated in thought or language..."

We can see an example of this in the following dialogue between the sisters:

"-He's got go, anyhow" [says Ursula of Gerald].

"Certainly he's got go," [says] Gundrun. "In fact I've never seen a man that showed signs of so much. The unfortunate thing is where does his go go to, what becomes of it?"

"Oh I know, [says] Ursula. "It goes in applying the latest appliances."

In this particular instance, the repetition of the word go suggests a sort of automation, hinting again at one of the central themes of the novel - industrialization. The phrasing represents Gerald's needless expenditure of energy in what machines could do better, the metaphoric substitution of iron for flesh and blood. According to Stewart, Gerald's one-dimensional will-driven quality is emphasized by redundancy.

From a writers' perspective, I think it is important to be aware of the limits of language and the different ways we can use style to communicate despite prejudice, interference or incomprehension.

18 July 2008

The Impotent Sun and Powerful Moon.

Hi everyone,

I'm sorry that I've been out of town for our last three classes but I'll be with you again this Tuesday. I wanted to respond to Brooke's post because her comments relate to, but also challenge, my own ideas about this book. (By the way, I wish I could say what "yellow" and "white" mean...though, suns and moons, and corresponding symbols for masculinity and femininity come to mind...as well as all of Birkin's references to stars when he speaks about love).

As I read, I think I have preconceived notions about men and women that this book challenges. For instance, the moon reference that Brooke mentioned: I always regard the moon as cooling, passive, feminine, gentle. And therefore, Birkin throwing rocks at its reflection does seem like a violent gesture. The women do seem to have many characteristics of the moon's symbolism. But in this book, the symbol of the moon itself also seems powerful and violent. For instance, the moon is constantly referred to throughout Ch. XIV, when Diana and the young man violently drown. This seems more significant since Diana's (female) body was found choking the young man's body in the morning. Throughout the book, when the sun is referred to it's sometimes dawning "faintly" (the end of Ch. XIV) or it is described as a "cold sunshine" (early on in Ch. IX), both of which seem like impotent descriptions in comparison to the moon.

Randomly, I was also interested in the way that Lawrence seems to go into great detail, suddenly, about animals in a scene. Maybe this isn't very significant, but it struck me that he would spend an entire paragraph (or more) describing a horse or a herd of cattle in the middle of a somewhat intense dynamic between the people in the scene. For example, Gerald spurring his Arab horse while Ursula screamed at him (Ch. IX) and Gudrun dancing towards the cattle, filled with intense emotion, before meeting Gerald and Birkin (Ch. XIV)...later, discussion of the cattle lead to Gudrun "lightly" slapping Gerald....

...which leads back to the beginning of this discussion: these British women seem more violent that the men, overall.

I wish I were there to discuss this book in class. I was also noticing all of his references to "forward" and "backward" motion, creation vs. destruction, and the way that he describes sections of society as almost subterranean...but I couldn't fit that all in one post.

17 July 2008

Women in Love?

The question mark above was Connie's suggestion and I thought it was funny as well as appropriate.

There were a couple of things that I wanted to talk about that either didn't seem to fit in with our discussion tonight or for which there wasn't enough time. I'm not sure if this has anything to do with modernism (probably not), but I was intrigued by Lawrence's reference to the color of characters' gazes -- white and yellow. He always seems to use white to imply anger (in fact, white seems to be a sinister color overall), but I have no idea what yellow means. Anybody have any ideas? If not, I'm going to shoot you all white looks on Tuesday.

Also, the notes in my edition explained that Ursula was named after the goddess of the moon. I didn't read that until after I had finished the novel, but I got to thinking about that scene where she goes down to the pond in the middle of the night and watches Birkin throwing rocks into the water to obliterate the reflection of the moon ... which, of course, was white. I thought that was an interesting touch of symbolism. Perhaps Birkin was subconsciously acting out violence against Ursula? Incidentally, she seemed perfectly happy to sit there and spy on him doing this until he started talking to himself, at which time, she thought him a ridiculous fool. Yet more of that distrust of language, I think.

Eliot readings

Please do read all the poems in Selected Poems for next week's class on TS Eliot.

We will, though, be focusing on the following poems:

14 July 2008

Outcry notes

Notes from Thursday’s discussion.


  1. We are moving back to St. Mary’s Hall – we decided that it was too cold to have class outside.
  2. We made several of the assignments for presentations – please email me ASAP and let me know what text you would like to do if you have not already signed up for something.

Discussing The Outcry:

The controversy over art at the turn of the century

  • Because of the declining fortunes of the aristocracy in England (and the needs of the state to deal with the recession at the end of the nineteenth century as well as the growing cost of empire, taxes were raised on the aristocracy), aristocrats began to sell off their art to American industrialists.
  • The most famous of these sales (though, in the end the sale never went through) was the Duke of Norfolk who put up his Hans Holbein for sale.
  • See the NY Times for more details: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=9E02E5DC1E31E733A25752C3A9639C946897D6CF

The fast-paced changes taking place in England that are reflected in the novel

  • There are at the beginning of the 20th century, some 370 bicycle factories in London (and a growing class differentiation between those who can afford cars and those who drive bicycles)
  • Electricity was being introduced to the domestic space (the electric bells, for instance)
  • The tube and the tramways (which facilitated the ease of transportation within and without England)
  • The rise of London as an international center of global finance and banking
  • And the remarkable growth of a reading public with access to newspapers

The main themes of The Outcry

  • Are the aristocracy the appropriate guardians of the nation’s “art-wealth”?
  • If art doesn’t originate in England, is it still part of the nation’s “art-wealth”?
  • What is the difference between American “theft” of English art and English theft of Italian art?
  • What are the relationships (ideological and material) between the marriage market and the art market?
  • Why does James use similar vocabulary to describe the marriage plot and the art-sale plot?
  • What makes The Outcry a comedy, in general, and a Shakespearean comedy, in particular?
  • Why is there a particular panic about the size and scale of American wealth?
  • What can we determine about the nature of the reading public, its ideological investments in this “epidemic,” and James’ particular understanding of the problem of the sale of art from close readings of the novel?

Some of the passages we talked about:

  • From Chapter 2: "Mr. Bender had six feet of stature and an air as of having received benefits at the hands of fortune. Substantial, powerful, easy, he shone as with a glorious cleanness, a supplied and equipped and appointed sanity and security; aids to action that might have figured a pair of very ample wings--wide pinions for the present conveniently folded, butthat he would certainly on occasion agitate for great efforts and spreadfor great flights. These things would have made him quite an admirable,even a worshipful, image of full-blown life and character, had notthe affirmation and the emphasis halted in one important particular.Fortune, felicity, nature, the perverse or interfering old fairy at his cradle-side--whatever the ministering power might have been--had simplyoverlooked and neglected his vast wholly-shaven face, which thus showed not so much for perfunctorily scamped as for not treated, as for neitherformed nor fondled nor finished, at all. Nothing seemed to have been done for it but what the razor and the sponge, the tooth-brush and the looking-glass could officiously do; it had in short resisted any possibly finer attrition at the hands of fifty years of offered experience. It had developed on the lines, if lines they could becalled, of the mere scoured and polished and initialled "mug" rather than to any effect of a composed physiognomy; though we must at the same time add that its wearer carried this featureless disk as with the warranted confidence that might have attended a warning headlight or a glaring motor-lamp. The object, however one named it, showed you atleast where he was, and most often that he was straight upon you. It was fearlessly and resistingly across the path of his advance that Lady Sandgate had thrown herself, and indeed with such success that he soon connected her demonstration with a particular motive. "For your grandmother, Lady Sandgate?" he then returned."
  • From Chapter 6: "Lord Theign, confessedly and amiably interested, had accepted these intimations--yet with the very blandness that was not accessible to hustling and was never forgetful of its standing privilege of criticism. He had come in from his public duty, a few minutes before, somewhat flushed and blown; but that had presently dropped--to the effect, we should have guessed, of his appearing to Lord John at least as cool as the occasion required. His appearance, we ourselves certainly should have felt, was in all respects charming--with the great note of it the beautiful restless, almost suspicious, challenge to you, on the part of deep and mixed things in him, his pride and his shyness, his conscience, his taste and his temper, to deny that he was admirably simple. Obviously, at this rate, he had a passion for simplicity--simplicity, above all, of relation with you, and would show you, with the last subtlety of displeasure, his impatience of your attempting anything more with himself. With such an ideal of decent ease he would, confound you, "sink" a hundred other attributes--or the recognition at least and the formulation of them--that you might abjectly have taken for granted in him: just to show you that in a beastly vulgar age you had, and small wonder, a beastly vulgar imagination. He sank thus, surely, in defiance of insistent vulgarity, half his consciousness of his advantages, flattering himself that mere facility and amiability, a true effective, a positively ideal suppression of reference in any one to anything that might complicate, alone floated above. This would be quite his religion, you might infer--to cause his hands to ignore in whatever contact any opportunity, however convenient, for an unfair pull. Which habit it was that must have produced in him a sort of ripe and radiant fairness; if it be allowed us, that is, to figure in so shining an air a nobleman of fifty-three, of an undecided rather than a certified frame or outline, of a head thinly though neatly covered and not measureably massive, of an almost trivial freshness, of a face marked but by a fine inwrought line or two and lighted by a merely charming expression. You might somehow have traced back the whole character so presented to an ideal privately invoked--that of his establishing in the formal garden of his suffered greatness such easy seats and short perspectives, such winding paths and natural-looking waters, as would mercifully break up thescale. You would perhaps indeed have reflected at the same time that thethought of so much mercy was almost more than anything else the thought of a great option and a great margin--in fine of fifty alternatives. Which remarks of ours, however, leave his lordship with his last immediate question on his hands."

09 July 2008

The Outcry

Dear Class, 

    I'm not sure whether anyone else stumbled upon this problem, but upon searching for The Outcry by Henry James, I found a play and a novel, both with the same title.  I'm going to assume we are reading the novel?  

    Few pages into the book, I ponder the title and why it would be called The Outcry, when the characters in the text grapple with a false sense of manners and outwardly politically correct social behavior.  

    According to Dictionary.com, outcry is 
1. a strong and usually public expression of protest, indignation, or the like
2. a crying out
Neither of these definitions or the word outcry does justice to the characters behaviors towards each other.  Diametrically opposing the title, the characters hold many feelings and thoughts, and seem to have a play on words.   An outcry determines a loss of control, whereas the characters exert extreme control over their behavior and how they pose their interactions.  

08 July 2008

Changes to the Syllabus

1) We've moved: we're now meeting at the Starbucks at the corner of El Camino Real and Ralston.

2) We've eliminated the following texts from the syllabus (in order to produce a more manageable reading list):
  • Conrad's Heart of Darkness
  • Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway
  • Yeats' Selected Poetry
  • Achebe's Things Fall Apart
  • Braithwaite's Selected Poetry
3) For the next class, we're reading the first 100 pages of The Outcry. Anyone who doesn't have a copy of the text can download it from Project Gutenberg. (The first 100 pages basically takes you through the second book).


British Modernism, or Late-Imperial Literary London

NDNU: Summer 2008

TTh 6:30-9:30 PM

Course Description:

In recent years, the term “British Modernism” has come under intense scrutiny. The inadequacies of the term are legion: its main practitioners were not British; the period in question was better characterized by a series of literary and philosophical debates between its members rather than developments within a current; and its beginnings and its ends have yet to be fully or satisfactorily marked. These interventions have demonstrated three itineraries for modernism: the first, heading out towards the continent (usually Paris) and circulating with developments in French, German, Russian, and Italian letters; the second, coming from America, using London as an entrepot occasionally for all things European, but mostly for Englishness proper; and the third, heading out towards and back from the Caribbean, African, and Asian colonies. That traffic had as its consequence certain changes to aesthetic and literary conventions which marked out modernism as a style and a period, but these conventions have been called into question by asking whether what counts as modernism in London should count for modernism everywhere. Finally, new considerations of book history have begun to challenge certain notions of modernism (especially the divide between highbrow and lowbrow culture) as they have investigated how the rise of a massive publishing industry opened up and simultaneously limited access to experimental writing. This class will ask whether this reorganization of literary traffic alters our conceptions of the output of what we will call Late-Imperial Literary London; we will pay careful consideration to changes in generic, stylistic, and thematic concerns that result from our reorganization of these texts. Our study of the literature of this period will be grounded in close attention to the texts; class discussions will be supplemented with occasional short lectures.


  • Achebe, Things Fall Apart
  • Anand, Untouchable
  • Barnes, Nightwood
  • Braithwaite, Selected Poems
  • Conrad, Heart of Darkness
  • Eliot, Selected Poems
  • James, The Outcry
  • Joyce, Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man
  • Lawrence, Selected Short Stories
  • Pound, Selected Poems
  • Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea
  • Stein, Selected Poems
  • Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway
  • Yeats, Selected Poems


  • July 8, 10: Introductions and fin-de-siecle literary London (from decadence to modernism); also Why did Modernism begin outside of England?: Conrad and James
  • July 15, 17: Homegrown modernism; or Reactions to the growth of the world’s first mega-city: Lawrence and Woolf
  • July 22, 24: American Anglophilia; poets in search of new homes: Eliot and Pound
  • July 29, 31: American women, French locales, British modernism: Stein and Barnes
  • August 5, 7: Irishmen and their English masters: Yeats and Joyce
  • August 12, 14: The colonial subject in the metropolis: Anand and Achebe
  • August 19, 21: Caribbean English: Braithwaite and Rhys

Course Assignments:

  • Contributions to the course blog 10%
  • Class Presentations 30%
  • Write-ups of presentations (3-4 pages) 10%
  • Final paper (15-20 pages) 50%