English 262a L. Reckson
TTH 2:30-4 HU III

The American Moderns

To be a modernist in the first half of the twentieth century was to be constantly on the move. This course approaches American and African-American modernisms through the circulation of bodies, texts, sounds, and images. Beginning with texts of the Great Migration, we’ll explore modernism’s destabilizing aesthetic practices as a function of mass migration and urbanization (in works by James Weldon Johnson, Nella Larsen, and Claude McKay). We’ll examine modernist practices as they circulated in journals like The Dial, The Little Review, Camera Work, and Poetry, and analyze the role of ex-patriotism in works by T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Ernest Hemingway, and Gertrude Stein. Engaging an important counter-trend towards local or embedded literatures (in works by William Faulkner, Zora Neal Hurston, and Jean Toomer), we’ll also linger at the thresholds of a few key modernist sites: Stein’s home at 27 Rue de Fleurus, Alfred Stieglitz’s 291 gallery, and the Marshall Hotel of Johnson’s Black Manhattan. Finally, we’ll examine the mediated movements of early twentieth-century visual culture, exploring performances by Josephine Baker, Charlie Chaplin, Isadora Duncan, and others. Throughout, we’ll track the relationship between experimental form and social transformation, studying modernism as it emerges with, and in response to, technological change, economic boom and bust, world war, and the struggle for racial and gender equality.

Provisional Readings:
Hart Crane, T. S. Eliot, William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, H. D., Langston Hughes, Zora Neal Hurston, James Weldon Johnson, Nella Larsen, Claude McKay, Marianne Moore, Ezra Pound, Carl Sandburg, Gertrude Stein, Wallace Stevens, Jean Toomer, and William Carlos Williams. Works and performances by Fred Astaire, Josephine Baker, Charlie Chaplin, Marcel Duchamp, Isadora Duncan, Loie Fuller.

Weekly reading journal; one stylistic imitation (2-3 pages); two short essays (5 pages); one final exam or multi-media final presentation; active participation.

Limited enrollment of 30 students