ENGL 418
Modernisms and the Archive
Last Offered Spring 2024
Division I
Cross-listed AMST 418
This course is not offered in the current catalog

Class Details

This seminar positions us at the intersection of archival theory, print culture, and literary study in order to chart new pathways for understanding the making of modern poetry and poetics during the period of literary history (from 1900 to 1945) that we most closely associate with the term Modernism. Modernist Studies is at the moment undergoing a major and exciting shift made possible by digital archives that allow us to access and document the rich intertextual experience of reading Modernism as it unfolded in the influential little magazines that came to define Modernisms. Some, like Poetry magazine, defined the new poetry strictly along aesthetic lines and treated these publications as collectible objects. Others, such as The Crisis, brought together poetry and the politics of race and social justice and encouraged, as Bartholomew Brinkman has argued, “both aesthetic and socially engaged readings.” We take advantage of digital archives, as well as physical ones, in order to tell new stories about both familiar and unfamiliar writers that can be discovered at the intersections of literary history and archives. Students will also have the opportunity to work in the Sterling Brown archive here at Williams. 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, yet Brown has often been left out of the narrative we tell about modern poetry. Work in the Sterling Brown archive will culminate in a curated public exhibition featuring your discoveries. Iain Bailey has argued that we should think of the archive “as a place of work, rather than as a cache from which to draw certainties.” With this caveat in mind and in the spirit of discovery, we will act over the course of the semester as investigators, curators, collaborators, and inquirers in the workshop of literary production and its aesthetic products.
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 15
Expected: 15
Class#: 3813
Grading: yes pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: Short papers, archival presentations, final paper or digital project (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

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