WiSe 16/17: S-Lit. Stud.: Periods-Genres-Concepts II: Modernism and the Animal
In 1871 Charles Darwin published his ground-breaking theory of evolution, The Descent of Man, in which he describes human evolution as arising from processes of biological adaptation and natural selection. In positing that all species of life have descended from common ancestors, Darwin destabilised the distinction between human and nonhuman beings, thus radically undermining the assumption of human privilege within the natural world. Although the Victorian attitude toward Darwinism maintained an attempt to sustain a humanist worldview, Modernist writers in the early twentieth century can be seen to invert the traditional humanist position by valuing and embracing animal force or animal consciousness. This course will examine the role of the animal and the relation between human and animal in key texts by Modernist writers in the first half of the twentieth century. Beginning with Darwin’s theories of evolution, and with some help from Derrida and Bataille, students will read novels and poems by writers such as Virginia Woolf, D.H. Lawrence, T.S. Eliot and Ted Hughes, in order to examine the ways in which Modernist writers have engaged with the paradoxical status of the human as both primate, material body and abstract intellectual mind.
Set Texts: Lawrence, D.H. The Plumed Serpent. Wordsworth Classics, 1995. Woolf, Virginia. Flush. Oxford World’s Classics, 2009.
A Course Reader will be made available on Blackboard prior to the beginning of semester.
Assessment: one 4000-word essay due after the end of semesterclose
15 Class schedule