ENGL 418
Modernisms and the Archive Spring 2022
Division I
Cross-listed AMST 418 / ENGL 418

Class Details

This course focuses on American Modernist writers who transformed American literature in the first half of the twentieth century. We explore how these writers–including W.E.B. DuBois, Sterling Brown, Gertrude Stein, José Garcia Villa, Marianne Moore, Nella Larsen, Zora Neale Hurston, Wallace Stevens, Langston Hughes, HD, and others–confronted the experience of modernity in new art that responded to dramatic, often cataclysmic change. We define key markers of the modernist aesthetic, including its formal experimentation and self-reflexivity; and study the sweeping political, social, and cultural events and issues that influenced these writers, including two world wars, rapid industrialization, mass migrations, women’s suffrage, Jim Crow racism, and a pandemic. We also look specifically at how the archives of Modernist writers–collected in institutions across the world–have shaped the discourse and narrative arc of literary history. Central to this archive-based discussion, students will have the opportunity to take a deep dive into the Sterling Brown archive here on the Williams College campus. Recently acquired by Williams College Library Special Collections, this significant archive documents the life, work, and poetic practice of African-American writer and educator Sterling Brown, whose poetry and prose spans nearly five decades of the twentieth century. Our class is timed for the opening of the Sterling Brown archive in 2022 and the events and speakers planned on campus for that year, exactly one hundred years after Brown graduated from Williams College in 1922. Because of Brown’s close connection with Williams, we will look particularly at how a poet’s college experience shapes a poetic career.
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 15
Expected: 15
Class#: 3874
Grading: yes pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: Short papers, writer's notebook, archival presentations, final paper (12-15 pages)
Prerequisites: a 100-level ENGL course, or a score of 5 on the AP English Literature exam, or a score of 6 or 7 on the Higher Level IB English exam
Enrollment Preferences: English Majors, American Studies Majors
Distributions: Division I
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
AMST 418 Division II ENGL 418 Division I
Attributes: AMST Arts in Context Electives
ENGL Criticism Courses
ENGL Literary Histories C

Class Grid

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