Fall 2003 ENG 383, Literary Modernism

Instructor: Michael Webster  Office: 129 LHH; Phone: 895-3071
e-mail: websterm@gvsu.edu Class time: 6:00-8:50 W, 225 LSH
homepage: http://faculty.gvsu.edu/websterm/ Office Hours: 11-12; 5-6 MW 
Gen. Ed. Theme Group: "Changing ideas, Changing worlds"
Links: Texts:

ENG 383 Schedule

Note: Complete assigned readings before class begins.

Part I : Pre-War

Week 1: [Aug. 27] August 27: Introductions; The Image and the Word: Guillaume Apollinaire's "Ocean Letter," The Eiffel Tower as modernist icon. [Topics: Futurism, Cubism - The Armory Show.]
Start reading James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (chapter I, 3-61).

September 1: No Class—Labor Day. Have a Great Picnic!
Week 2: [Sept. 3] Read: James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, chapters I-III (3-158) and Seamus Deane, "Introduction" (vii-xxix). [Topics: Symbolism; Joyce, Stephen Hero.]

Week 3: [Sept. 10] September 9: Finish James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, chapters IV-V (159-276) and Seamus Deane, "Introduction" (xxx-xliii).  [Topics: Imagism, Vorticism.]
September 13: Research topic and questions due.

Part II: The Great War (World War I)

Week 4: [Sept. 17] September 16 & 18: The Writer, the Artist, and the City; Paris, the City of Light. Stravinsky, The Rite of Spring, Petrushka. Satie, Parade.

Begin E. E. Cummings, The Enormous Room, chapters I-VI (3-128); Richard S. Kennedy, "Foreword," part 1 (vii-xi).  [Topics: World War I and the poets; dadaism; John Bunyan, The Pilgrim's Progress, Part I (1678); Cummings poems such as "next to of course god america i," "my sweet old etcetera," and "i sing of Olaf glad and big".]
September 20: Research Skills.

Week 5: [Sept. 24] E. E. Cummings, The Enormous Room, chapters VII-XIII (129-242). [Topics: Modernism; World War I, Artists and War.] Enormous Room Images
"The Great War: a Lost Generation?"
Annotated Bibliography and Plan of Action due.

Week 6: [Oct. 1] Video: The Shock of the New: Powers That Be. Hemingway, "Big Two-Hearted River" "Soldier's Home" from In Our Time. New York: Scribners, 1991. (handout).

Part III: Post-War, the 20s

Week 7: [Oct. 8] "Eat, Drink and Be Merry" Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises

Midterm Exam—Essay and Identification

Week 8: [Oct. 15] Finish Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises.
Poets in Paris [Topics: Imagism, Vorticism re-visited.] Ezra Pound, "Hugh Selwyn Mauberley," T. S. Eliot, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," The Waste Land. Cummings' Paris poems. Paris Noir—Al Brown, Josephine Baker, Langston Hughes

Week 9: [Oct. 22] Finish poets. "Writing the Modern Self"; Gertrude Stein, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas. (Parts 1 and 2) [Topics: Women of the Left Bank, "stream of consciousness"]

Week 10: [Oct. 29] Finish Gertrude Stein, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas. (Part 3). [Topics: Women of the Left Bank, "stream of consciousness"]

Week 11: [Nov. 5] "A Circus of Psychology": Djuna Barnes, Nightwood. Responses to the modernist movement: why was modernism so threatening to some individuals and groups? (Video: Degenerate Art)

Week 12: [Nov. 12] F. Scott Fitzgerald, "Babylon Revisited" (handout) and Project Presentations

Week 13: [Nov. 19] Project Presentations.

[Nov. 26] Happy Thanksgiving!

Week 14: [Dec. 3] Project Presentations. CONGRATULATIONS! YOU MADE IT!

Final Exam—Wednesday, December 12, 10:00-11:50 225 LSH

COURSE POLICIES—ENG 383 A: Literary Modernism

Theme Group: This course is part of the General Education Theme Group "Changing ideas, Changing worlds" (in faculty-speak: "Paradigm Shifts"). (See handout for more information.) What do you think is the main shift here?

Readings: These books are required; occasionally, additional reading or literature will be distributed in class or posted on the class web page. Assigned readings are noted on the syllabus; all reading ought be completed before the class for which it is assigned. Copies of all books have been ordered through the campus bookstore. Another, often less expensive alternative is an on-line bookstore such as amazon.com or one of the new on-line textbook sellers. These companies usually process orders within a day or two. Please use the editions and translations ordered for this class.

Preparation / Keeping on Track: You are expected to read every assignment before the class period it is due. It is your responsibility to allocate your own time so that this is possible. During weeks when reading assignments are lighter (for example when we read poetry and short stories), get a start on the novels. It's often helpful to take notes as you read (list character's names, key concepts, themes, ideas or quotations that strike you as interesting / unusual). Think in advance of at least one point you could make in class. Think about how the reading compares to other works you've read, what ideas the author expresses, how the work exemplifies characteristics I mention in class. To help you keep on track and prepare for discussion, I will sometimes ask you to answer specific questions, to provide your own topics for discussion, to write brief response papers, or to answer quiz questions. Feel free to ask questions about the readings, which, while they may seem somewhat daunting at times, are nevertheless exciting, entertaining, and challenging. Your participation will help make the discussion lively and the course more memorable.

Goals: In the modernist era, painters and writers challenged official culture and ways of making meaning. Some even declared that official culture was dead, finding meaning only in the life and machinery of the actual modern world. Others avoided meaning altogether, writing chance or nonsense poetry and creating abstract art. Others broke literature and art into various kinds of fragments. Others began forge their own meanings by "making new" (and timeless) the art of the past. How does one study such a traditional and iconoclastic, "obscure" and "nonsensical" literature and art? One answer is that in order to interpret, or to find meaning, in a seemingly "meaningless" work of art, we must understand the contexts in which it was created. Thus we will place these individual artworks in the contexts of the modern machine-world, rootless urban life, artistic movements, and cataclysm of World War I. In many cases, interpreting literature involves thinking like a detective. For example, we can ask how the ballet Petrushka and the slaughter of World War I influenced the meanings of E. E. Cummings' memoir of imprisonment, The Enormous Room. Learning to interpret literature and art also involves asking three kinds of questions: reading and interpretive, and critical.

(Each kind of question may contain elements of another kind. Thus an analytical interpretation may take into account sensuous aspects like feeling and performance.) The best questions are open-ended—they have no "right" or "wrong" answer, only better or worse answers according to the evidence and reasonings you can bring to back up your opinions. These questions usually contain phrases like "do you think" or "why do you suppose."

The larger goals of this course are to equip students with the skills needed to effectively think, read, and express themselves (in writing and debate) as reflective, critical citizens. This course will give you the chance to sharpen your ability to form an argument, interpret evidence, and make connections among complex ideas. I also hope you will find the course challenging and enjoyable: the fun will come in discovering new ideas through reading, talking, and writing about ancient storesliterature and art. Further, through a respectful give and take of opinions, you will have the chance to discover how modernist lives and historical and cultural issues relate to our own time and place. Also, we'll read and enjoy some really good (and strange) stories that explore the beauty and complexity of human existence.

Questions: "The love of wisdom begins in wonder," said Socrates. We learn by asking and working out answers to questions. Try to come to class each day with at least one probing question that you would use to start off the discussion. (See "Tips" sheet.) The study questions in the packet or in handouts are designed to stimulate your thinking and activate your reading, to highlight important issues, and to prepare you for in-class discussion.

Attendance: Since I've structured this course around discussion questions, rather than just lecture material, your attendance and your participation is vital. Those who are absent (in body or mind) will find the course less interesting and the material more difficult than those who attend and participate. You cannot "make up" the discoveries and the intellectual give-and-take created by a classroom full of individual personalities. You also deprive the class of the unique perspective that only you can bring. If you feel intimidated or puzzled by the readings or have some hesitancy about participating, feel free to talk to me about it. Absence may make the heart grow fonder, but it definitely makes the grade go lower. Those who miss more than a week of classes without legitimate excuse will receive a failing grade for the course.

Due dates: All formal written assignments are to be typed and are due at the beginning of the class specified. Late papers will receive a failing grade. Similarly, exams must be taken when scheduled. If you have a truly extraordinary circumstance (serious illness or 6 papers due the same day, for instance), let me know as early as possible before an assignment is due, and we'll work something out so that you can hand in your best possible effort.


Preparation and Participation 15 % (includes short writings for homework)
Midterm Exam 15 %
Final Exam 15 %
Annotated Bibliography/Research Plan 10 %
Semester Project (written) 35 %
Semester Project (oral presentation) 10 %
The Writing Center is a place where students can discuss their writing with student consultants prepared to respond to their work. The Writing Center offers assistance on prewriting, drafting, revising previous drafts, editing, and citing sources. Locations:

Allendale Campus
201 STU
Pew Campus
Grand Rapids
101B De Vos / 331-6407
Meijer Campus
Room 119 

Hours vary: check the Writing Center home page at http://www4.gvsu.edu/wc/


Homework assignments, including short response papers focused on issues raised in the reading. The questions are designed to help you clarify your own thoughts about the issues raised in class or to understand particularly difficult reading assignments.

Midterm and final exams (an objective, identification section that will give you credit for having done the reading; an essay section that will require thoughtful analysis of course content, requiring you to make connections among the texts we read).

Final Project (a critical or creative project requiring independent research and focused on a related topic of interest to you. You need to identify a project and begin research before the midterm exam). Think of ways in which this material on modernist writers relates to what you have learned about your own discipline.

Because grades are meant to reflect your effort in a course, plagiarism will be punished severely. At the least, you will receive an F for the paper; you may fail the entire course. For more information on the University's policy on plagiarism, see sections 223.00 and following in the Student Code. If you have any questions about plagiarism, don't hesitate to ask.

Back to:
ENG 383 Syllabus

Mike Webster's home page

Webster's Courses