ENGL 3P38: Modernism

Instructor: Professor Tim Conley
Class times: Thurs 17:00-19:00
Office: GLN 125 Office hours: Thurs 14:30-16:30
E­mail: tconley@brocku.ca Office phone: (905) 688­5550 ext. 5196

Course overview
The definition of “Modernism” is still, a century later, a matter of debate. In this course, we will examine a series of possible approaches to defining this term as we read an international range of authors (from such canonical figures as T. S. Eliot and Virginia Woolf to names hitherto less familiar, including Yvan Goll, Humberto Rivas, and Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven) and explore some of the avant-garde movements of the era (including Futurism, Imagism, and Surrealism) and their historical and social contexts. We will do this by focussing on the urban experience, on how the transforming and transformative environment of the city (Paris, New York, Moscow, and so on) became the crèche of modernist experimentation. Students will be encouraged to explore the avenues and works which most interest them. We may have an evening or two of films if there is sufficient interest.

Required Texts
T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land and Other Poems
Rasula and Conley, eds., Burning City: Poems of Metropolitan Modernity
Virginia Woolf, Mrs Dalloway

Marking scheme
Evaluation will be based upon performance on one short essay (worth 25%), one long essay (35%), one seminar presentation (20%), and class participation (20%). This last refers to participation in both lectures and (focally) seminars. Students absent from more than three seminars (certified emergencies excepted) forfeit the full participation mark. Students will receive at least 15% of the grade by March 3, and should note that the last day to drop a D2 course without penalty is March 10. Please note that completion of all assignments is required to pass the course.

Late policy
A penalty of three percent (3%) for each day late, including weekends, will be incurred in all cases except certified emergencies. Papers more than ten days late will not be accepted, and a mark of zero will be given for the assignment. Requests for extensions sent by email will not be entertained. All assigned work must be submitted in hard copy: emailed assignments will not be accepted.

Simply: don’t even think about it. Students are referred to Brock University’s official policy on plagiarism (see Undergraduate Calendar, Academic Regulations and University Policies, VII. Academic Misconduct), and they are further advised that the instructor has an especially low view of such behaviour. Decisions for penalties in such cases are made by the Associate Dean, but the instructor will recommend a minimum penalty of a grade of zero for the assignment.

Medical Emergencies
All students should familiarize themselves with Brock’s Medical Exemption policy and follow its procedures if necessary (see http://www.brocku.ca/healthservices/exemption.php).

Laptops and Other Electronic Media
Students may use laptop computers in lecture but are asked not to distract other students with these devices. In seminars, on the other hand, the use of laptops is strongly discouraged. (Note that students whose disabilities require the use of a laptop should inform the instructor and seminar leader of this at the soonest opportunity.) Cell phones, blackberries, and other social media should be shut off during both lecture and seminar: use of such media in these settings is both disrespectful and demonstrative of poor attention to the course, and may be penalized in participation grades.

January 12           course introduction

January 19          Overtures (BC 1-24)

                            seminar (week of January 16-20): Multiple City (BC 124-82)

January 26          Poetic Circulation (BC 25-44)
                            Postcards (BC 77-78) 

                            seminar (week of January 23-27): Multiple City (BC 124-82)

February 2          Futurist Hope (BC 45-54)

                            seminar (week of January 30-February 3): Aviograms (BC 55-66)

February 9          Eliot, The Waste Land

                             seminar (week of February 6-10): Soupault, “Westwego” (BC 117-23)
                             Van Ostaijen, “Music Hall” (BC 250-76)

February 16         Eliot, The Waste Land
                             seminar (week of February 13-17): Parade of the Eccentric (BC 277-300)

February 20-24  Reading Week (no classes)

March 2               Mrs Dalloway

                             seminar (week of February 27-March 3): Mrs Dalloway

March 9               Mrs Dalloway

                             seminar (week of March 6-10): Whipcracks and Megaphone Chants (BC 222-49)

March 16             Electric Man (BC 322-62)

                             seminar (week of March 13-17): Cineland: Evening Show (BC 303-21)

March 23             Paris (BC 79-116)

                             seminar (week of March 20-24): New York (BC 400-31)

March 30             A New Mythology (BC 448-85)

                             seminar (week of March 27-March 31): Lunar Baedeker (BC 487-514)

April 6                 Twentieth Century Blues (BC 527-38)
                             course review

Due dates
February 16         Short essay due (4-6 pages)
April 10                Long essay due (10-12 pages)

Seminar 1             Mon 16:00-17:00 EA 306
Seminar 2            Tues 15:00-16:00 EA 104

Seminars are designed for group discussion, offering students greater opportunity to express and exchange their own ideas than lectures allow. Students should arrive at seminars having read the work assigned and prepared to talk about it: mere attendance is not synonymous with participation.

Seminar Presentations
Students in each seminar will sign up for one of the provided seminar topics by no later than January 27 (students who do not sign up by this deadline will not be permitted to give a presentation, and forfeit the mark). Students are expected to lead seminar discussion on a selected text on the day for which they have signed up. This means: (1) selecting a poem or excerpt (or two poems) from the given section of Burning City or a passage from the given novel; (2) presenting a combination of instructive information and thoughtful questions; and (3) making sure the seminar conversation moves forward in a constructive way. Note that it is the responsibility of students presenting on any given day to ensure that they are not presenting on the same poem: where this does happen, both students will have their marks halved. Seminar presentations should run approximately 18-20 minutes, and will be marked by both the seminar leader and the students in the seminar.

ENGL 3P38 Essay #1

Length: 4-6 pages, plus works cited list
Due: February 16

Choose one of the following topics and write an essay with an original thesis on that topic. All papers must be double-spaced and accompanied by an original title and a works cited list (those without either will automatically lose five percent of the essay mark). Secondary sources are recommended though not required for this paper.

1. What happens to the lyrical, subjective first person (the “I” who speaks or sings and unifies the poem) in the experience of the modern city? Consider this question with a focus on two of the poems we have looked at in Burning City so far, or one of those poems and The Waste Land.

2. The reader of The Waste Land is cautioned: “you know only / A heap of broken images” (lines 21-22). Collage is arguably the modernist mode of art par excellence. Consider how one or two of the poems we have discussed so far this term (not necessarily Eliot’s) employ collage as a technique, and what value they give to the fragmentary.

3. Bruno Corra’s unpunctuated “Futurist Hope” (BC 45-46) batters the reader with a wild variety of ideas, images, and suggestions, among them “insane speed.” With attention to one or two poems from the anthology’s sections that we have discussed prior to February 16, consider the role and effect that speed has in modernist poetry. (If you decide to focus specifically on futurist poetry, you might want to look closely at F. T. Marinetti’s futurist manifestoes, which you can find online.)

4. “I will show you fear in a handful of dust,” avows The Waste Land. With attention to one or two poems studied so far in the term, consider what emotions are invoked by close attention to perhaps otherwise unnoticed, everyday objects.

5. Devise your own essay topic on The Waste Land and/or any poems included in the sections of Burning City that we have discussed prior to February 16 in either lecture or seminar. You may discuss one or two different texts, but not more than two. You must have met with the instructor to discuss this topic and have his approval beforehand.

Here is an example of a works cited list:

Works Cited

Apollinaire, Guillaume. “Monday in Christine Street.” Trans. Anne Hyde Greet. Rasula and Conley 140-41.

Bohn, Willard. The Aesthetics of Visual Poetry 1914-1928. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1993.

Rasula, Jed, and Tim Conley, eds. Burning City: Poems of Metropolitan Modernity. Notre Dame: Action Books, 2012.

Tzara, Tristan. “Circus.” Trans. Mary Ann Caws. Rasula and Conley 228-31.

Please note that poems are not prose and should not be quoted as though they were. Respect the form of the text you quote: line breaks, for example, should be noted (e.g., “At the violet hour, when the eyes and back /Turn upward from the desk, when the human engine waits / Like a taxi throbbing waiting”), and quotations longer than four lines (whether poetry or prose) should be set off as block quotations apart from the body of your essay. More idiosyncratic layouts will have to be accommodated with whatever necessary ingenuity – at the very least, do not pretend the form is other than it is.

Essay #2

Length: 10-12 pages, plus works cited list
Due: April 10

Write an essay with an original thesis that responds to one of the quotations given below. Your essay should discuss three works studied this term: one of these three must come from this list:

Eliot, The Waste Land
Woolf, Mrs Dalloway
Soupault, “Westwego”
Van Ostaijen, “Music Hall”
Moholy-Nagy, “Dynamic of the Metropolis”
Metropolis (dir. Fritz Lang)

1. For mythology and poetry are one and indivisible. All the poems of antiquity link together till out of ever greater limbs and members a whole is formed; all fuses, everywhere there lives one and the same spirit in different expressions. And thus it is truly no empty figure to say that ancient poetry is a single, indivisible, completed poem. Why should what has already been not emerge anew? In a different manner, of course. And why not in a finer, greater manner?Friedrich Schlegel, from “Dialogue on Poetry” (1800)
Excerpt included in The Modern Tradition: Backgrounds of Modern Literature, ed. Richard Ellmann and Charles Feidelson, Jr. (New York: Oxford UP, 1965), 660-63

2. The thrust of the age was to affirm the reality of private time against that of a single public time and to define its nature as heterogenous, fluid, and reversible.
Stephen Kern, The Culture of Time and Space, 1880-1918. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1983. 34.

3. By the brokenness of his composition the poet makes himself master of a certain weapon which he could possess himself of in no other way. The speed of the emotions is sometimes such that thrashing about in a thin exhalation or despair many matters are touched but not held, more often broken by the contact. . . . It is seldom that anything but the most elementary communications can be exchanged with one another.
William Carlos Williams, Prologue to Kora in Hell (1918). Modernism: An Anthology of Sources and Documents. Ed. Vassiliki Kolocotroni, Jane Goldman, and Olga Taxidou. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1998. 244-51.

4. A fearless constructive feminism will re-read the past in the light of its present recognition of the synthetic consciousness of woman; will recognise that this consciousness has always made its own world, irrespective of circumstances. It can be neither enslaved nor subjected. Man, the maker of formulæ, has tried in vain, from outside, to “solve the problem” of woman. He has gone off on lonely quests. He has constructed theologies, arts, sciences, philosophies. Each one in turn has stiffened into lifelessness or become the battle-ground of conflicting theories. He has sought his God in the loneliness of his thought-ridden mind, in the beauty of the reflex of life in art, in the wonder of his analysis of matter, in the curious maps of life turned out by the philosophising intellect. Woman has remained curiously untroubled and complete.
Dorothy Richardson, “The Reality of Feminism.” 1917. The Gender of Modernism: A Critical Anthology. Ed. Bonnie Kime Scott. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1990. 401-7.

5. The plain reader be damned.
Eugene Jolas, “Manifesto: The Revolution of the Word.” 1929. Transition Workshop. Ed. Eugene Jolas. New York: The Vanguard P, 1949. 173-74.

All papers must be double-spaced and accompanied by an original title and a works cited list (those without either will automatically lose five percent of the essay mark). Secondary sources –sources appropriate to a scholarly essay– are required for this paper.

Note: students who have not, at the time of this essay’s deadline, picked up their first essay forfeit the right to receive any commentary (apart from a grade) on their second essay.