In this first year seminar, we will analyze modernist literary productions in a variety of genres—readings will include poetry (T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land”), short fiction (Henry James’s “In the Cage” and “The Real Thing”) and novels (Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, E.M. Forster’s Howards End and Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway)—and will analyze the forms of modern media featured within these texts. We will examine the ways in which these modernist texts engage with modern media forms: telegrams, phonographs, photographs, and advertisements. Modernist authors saw their texts as competing with these other expressive media. How is a poem like or not like a photograph? What traits does a novel share with a telegram? How do our reading and writing strategies change when we think about modernist literature as media? In other words, we will learn to read across media and to compare the textual strategies of modernist literary texts with competing media forms. This intermixing of modernism and media will allow us to gain greater insights about both subjects.
In addition to exploring old “new media” featured in modernist texts, we will consider new “new media” in a short research project and through experimenting with the kinds of condensation required by the telegram-like 140-character “tweet.” Course twitter pages will be required (you will be asked to create new accounts specifically for this course) and will feature a variety of short assignments—tweeting from the perspective of a particular character, 140 chapter or reading synopses, discussion questions—and you will be able to read one another’s tweets as part of the course twitter list. The major writing assignments for this course will proceed in numerous stages and each assignment will ask you to hone effective close-reading analysis skills, to develop compelling central questions, and to use concrete textual evidence to build compelling analytical arguments (a much fuller description of the multi-stage structure of the core writing for the course can be found under the “Assignments and Policies” section later in this syllabus). At various points throughout the course, we will use class time for directed peer workshops and for full class workshops focusing on key issues like thesis statements, developing your questions, quote integration, and effective analysis.