ENGL 113
Modernist British Fiction Fall 2009
Division I Writing Skills
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In the first three decades of the twentieth century, writers in Britain, Europe, and America–participating in the creative explosion of revolutionary aesthetic movements known collectively as modernism–transformed our understanding of the art of fiction. Modernist writers boldly diverged from the norms and conventions of classical realist fiction, in an array of exciting, if sometimes bewildering, formal innovations. They upended the stability of realist narration through the use of shifting, unorthodox points of view, unreliable narrators, disorienting time-shifts, and ostentatious authorial self-consciousness, and through the scrutiny of problems of memory and representation; they reconceived the nature of subjectivity; they re-defined what counts as an “event”; and they made fiction operate more like poetry, by shifting the reader’s attention from a linear, character-oriented unfolding of plot to what has been called a “spatial” organization of metaphoric and conceptual patterns. In this course we will explore this sweeping revision of the nature of fiction by studying several great, often challenging modernist works of short fiction: stories, novellas, and short novels by such British writers as Joseph Conrad, James Joyce, E. M. Forster, Virginia Woolf, and Ford Madox Ford, and perhaps by one or two Continental writers such as Thomas Mann and Franz Kafka. Our principal aim will be to develop students’ skills as readers and interpreters of fiction. A secondary benefit of the course will be to introduce students to literary modernism through a survey of some of its greatest exponents.
The Class: Format: dicussion/seminar
Limit: 19
Expected: 19
Class#: 1608
Grading: yes pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: active participation in class discussions, and frequent, rigorous writing in the form of short papers and brief written exercises (about 20 pages)
Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preferences: first-year students
Distributions: Division I Writing Skills

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