E304 0257 WILES
Literatures in English 1900-Present

8:55a-10:10a D (30) 3 cr.

A course on world literature in English is a huge undertaking, and it requires us to think of some central rubrics around which to organize our explorations. I want us to keep two governing ideas in mind, one about the modernity of the century that has just passed, and the other about its international scope. In general, we will organize our work around several key questions: –what has it meant to live in the modern age, or to be confronted with modernism in literature and the arts in our century? And for a literature known for its modernity, is time portrayed uniquely? Do we worship the future or fear it? Do we sanctify the moment of “now”? Do we have a new relationship with the past (with “tradition”)?
–and what does it mean for English to have become the worldwide language for political, economic, and (to some extent) cultural communications in the Twentieth Century? What are some main themes in postcolonial or international English literature, and how has this writing impacted on our more traditional sites for literary production (for example, its impact on American literature, or on the literature coming from England and the British Isles)?

Because the readings in this course are somewhat diffuse, I want you to write a series of short papers, 2-3 pages long, and ideally, write about almost all of the readings in the course. You will also take two exams that will test your factual knowledge and close reading abilities.

In this course we will deal with literary modernism, which we will approach through poetry first of all; we will study a range of poets including Pound, Eliot, Williams, Stevens, Moore, Lowell, and Plath, all of whom are profiled in the video series “Voices and Visions,” from which I will show selections in class. We will look at different ways in which writers have depicted the flow of thought, using Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway as an example of stream of consciousness fiction. We will look at visions of the future, particularly dystopian projections of dehumanization and apocalypse as found in Orwell’s novel 1984 and Beckett’s play Endgame. In the unit devoted to world literature in English, we will read two plays that deal with the connection between postcolonialism and gender and identity conflicts, Churchill’s Cloud Nine and Fugard’s Sizwe Bansi is Dead, and survey a number of short pieces by writers from Africa, India, and the Caribbean, using the anthology A Concert of Voices.