Level 5 (30 credits)

This module introduces you to the style, history, politics and controversies of modernism. We will read central modernist texts such as Joyce's 'Ulysses', Eliot's 'The Waste Land', and Woolf's 'To the Lighthouse', alongside a selection of modernist and modern writers, critics, journalists and intellectuals. In the first semester, we will see how modernism developed in the 1910s and 20s, and examine a range of contexts for its stylistic experiments in narrative and point of view, in urban life, war, sexual emancipation, and psychology. In the second semester, we will focus on the novel and its relation to time, history and new technologies of film and recording. We will then look at some examples of modernism in America including modernism's presence in African American culture.

Preparing for this Module and Approximate Costs

A good place to start with your reading is the core textbook for the module: Modernism: An Anthology, ed. by Lawrence Rainey (Oxford: Blackwell, 2005). This book will be referred to as Anthology in the module's weekly schedule (published on QMplus later in the summer). We recommend that you read the introduction to the Anthology and familiarise yourself with the sections on T.S. Eliot, Mina Loy, Virginia Woolf, and James Joyce.

You should also buy or secure and if possible read over the summer:

Katharine Mansfield, Selected Stories, ed. Angela Smith (Oxford World's Classics, 2008)*

James Joyce, Ulysses, ed. Jeri Johnson (Oxford World's Classics, 2008)*, read Telemachus, Calpyso and Penelope

Virginia Woolf, Jacob's Room (Penguin Classics, 1992)

Nella Larsen, Passing (several different editions available)

Jean Rhys, Voyage in the Dark (Penguin Modern Classics, 2000)

* Recommended editions

There are some excellent guides and introductions to modernism and we recommend that you read some of these as they are excellent preparation for the reading and thinking you will be doing. All but one are available online.

Kern, Stephen, The Modernist Novel: A Critical Introduction (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011)

Peter Howarth, The Cambridge Introduction to Modernist Poetry (Cambridge, 2010)

Peter Nicholls, Modernisms (1995) [print book]

And for reading tailored to some of the key topics on the module:

Chapters on Modernism and the Urban Imaginary by Matthew Beaumont and David James in The Cambridge History of Modernism, ed. Vincent Sherry (Cambridge, 2017)This book has a number of chapters relevant to themes on the module including the avant-gardes and the First World War.

Anna Snaith, Modernist Voyages: Colonial Women Writers in London 1890-1945 (Cambridge University Press, 2014). See the sections on Jean Rhys and Una Marson in particular.

Primary texts (for both semesters) costing up to £65 if published new. Note that these costs can be reduced by purchasing items second-hand or borrowing them from the Library. Try for second-hand copies of most texts. Module visits and trips will be free.

Why take

  • A great introduction to the Big Names of the early C20 - Joyce, Woolf, Eliot - and to some great writers who got missed out
  • Explores how modernism's artistic experiment relates to dramatic social change (urban life, feminism, civil rights, democracy and war)
  • Combines detailed analysis of word, sound and image: a multi-media module for a multi-media century
Learning Context Lecture + Seminar
Semester One + Two
  1. Participation, 10%
  2. Written Assignment (1000 words), 10%
  3. Portfolio (2000 words), 30%
  4. Written Assignment (3000 words), 50%
Mode of reassessment Standard