Department of English UG Module Directory (2020)

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Modernism and Democracy

Level 6 (15 credits)

We live in a moment of crisis for liberal democracy; fewer and fewer people surveyed round the world are accepting its validity as a system. A hundred years ago, many of the emerging wave of modernist writers were also either suspicious of it or attracted to totalitarianism, at just the time when the vote was being extended to women and the working classes, and universal education was producing a newly-literate and better-informed mass public. By looking at writers from across the pro- and anti-democratic spectrum and the changing relations between artists, education, markets, media and readers, we will try to unpick what the modernists’ hopes for and anxieties about democracy were, and how they emerge in the form as well as the content of their work. As we do so, we will also explore what a ‘democratic culture’ actually is, and to what degree our own age has one either, particularly in its media and digital forms.  How could we do democracy better?

Preparing for this Module and Approximate Costs

The reading for this module is substantial. The best preparation is to read the longer primary texts below.

The texts you will have to have your own copy of are below: costs can be reduced by second-hand buyings or borrowings. 

Whitman, Leaves of Grass (£5)

Forster, Howards End (£6)

Nabokov, Bend Sinister (£8)

Joyce, Ulysses (episode 13, 'Nausicaa')

Woolf, The Waves (£8)

Learning Context Long Seminar
Semester 2

1. Essay 1 (1,500 words), 30%
2. Essay 2 (2,500 words), 70%

Mode of reassessment Standard
Contact Peter Howarth