ENGL 350
The Problem of Modernity and the Modernist Imagination Spring 2010
Division I Writing Skills
Cross-listed COMP 350 / ENGL 350
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Class Details

Historically, “modernity” refers roughly to the last four centuries, a time that saw the rise of the scientific revolution, market economies, industrialized production, and mass democracy. Such developments radically altered the world, producing, for many, a disorienting experience of rupture with tradition and the past. All, to be sure, in the name of progress, for the Enlightenment regarded modernity as a fundamentally moral project, one that would reduce human suffering by means of science and technology, increase the authority of reason in public life, and extend individual rights to ever more classes of people. At the same time, however, the Enlightenment cast unacknowledged shadows of its own making: distinctively modern ills like colonial exploitation, mechanized warfare, and widespread feelings of rootlessness and anomie. Progress and good bound up so tightly with loss and evil, it is no wonder that modernity struck (and still strikes) many living through it as a “problem”: is modernity a good, but unfinished, project? Or is it, rather, some kind of fateful error, which will lead to the devastation of the natural world without, and human nature within? Will it make us freer and our lives more meaningful? Or is the freedom it promises chimerical? And can life any longer have real meaning in an impersonal world dominated by mass culture and technology? Such anxious doubts haunt modernity, and late 19th and early 20th-century texts that give them forceful expression will be the focus of this tutorial, including: Freud’s Civilization and its Discontents, Dostoevsky’s Notes from Underground, Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Nietzsche’s The Genealogy of Morals, Horkheimer and Adorno’s Dialectic of Enlightenment, James’ The Portrait of a Lady, Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, and Beckett’s Endgame.
The Class: Format: tutorial; students will meet with the instructor in pairs for an hour each week
Limit: 10
Expected: 10
Class#: 3696
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: students will write a 5- to 7-page paper every other week (five in all), and comment on their partners' papers in alternate weeks
Prerequisites: a 100-level English course
Unit Notes: meets post-1900 requirement in English major only if registration is under ENGL
Distributions: Division I Writing Skills
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
COMP 350 Division I ENGL 350 Division I
Attributes: MAST Interdepartmental Electives

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