WiSe 15/16: Arts of the Modern: Experimentation, Provocation, Complicity
Mary Ann Snyder-Körber
What is modernism? This course explores that seemingly simple, but actually quite complex question. Modernism can be most broadly defined as the art that responds to the new historical conditions of ... read more
What is modernism? This course explores that seemingly simple, but actually quite complex question. Modernism can be most broadly defined as the art that responds to the new historical conditions of modernity by modernizing its own forms and strategies. Thus, one focus of the course will be on modernist experimentation: from intermediality to primitivist appropriation. The provocation of such experiment is a further emphasis in discussions of shock, avant-garde assault, and, not least, modernist entanglements with the darkest sides of historical modernity. In their rage to remake expression, modernists made themselves complicit with ideologies of violence, discourses and practices of prejudice. Accordingly, misogyny, notions of degeneration, anti-Semitism, and what Susan Sontag provocatively termed "fascinating fascism" will also concern us.
Sessions will alternate between overview lectures and case study-focused analysis. Specific authors and projects to be considered include: Wyndham Lewis and Blast; T.S. Eliot; Ezra Pound, and the poetics of prejudice; primitivism in transatlantic modernism; progressive and rear-guard avant-gardism of the midcentury; and the "trials" of modernist obscenity from James Joyce's Ulysses to William Burroughs's Naked Lunch. In its case-study approach as well as its focus on particular forms and persistent controversies in regards to modernism, "Arts of the Modern" productively interacts with the general lecture on "American Modernities" offered by the Culture Department this semester.
In addition to regular attendance and participation, students are required to participate in work groups that will prepare questions and moderate the case study sessions of the course.
Shorter texts and pertinent secondary materials will be made available via Blackboard. Although we will be approaching many longer texts through exemplary chapters and excerpts, I recommend purchasing the following texts for your personal library as well as use in this class: Carl van Vechten's Nigger Heaven, Djuna Barnes's Nightwood and William S. Burroughs's Naked Lunch (any reasonably priced edition).