ENGL425 - Modern British Literature

This class surveys British and Irish literature after 1900, focusing specifically on the related development of two aesthetic movements: modernism and postmodernism. Our syllabus is organized around a central question, one that will help us to examine the principal features of both movements, as well as to develop a general narrative about the evolution of British and Irish literature and literary concerns across the century. That question is: what happened to modernism when culture felt that it had become postmodern? (Or, more fundamentally, what does it mean to be postmodern)? The term "post" implies both an unbreakable connection to modernism and a definite movement beyond it, and our premise will indeed be that modernism and postmodernism bear both relations at once. We will examine how modernists pursued a set of formal innovations that postmodernists would inevitably take even further, and how postmodern writers devote themselves to aesthetic modernism while re-imagining its social significance. We will thus proceed by focusing on a set of aesthetic innovations—including a turn toward impressionism, fragmentation and pastiche, cultural narrative-making, and a blending of high and low culture—and see how first modernists and then postmodernists differently imagine the boundaries and significance of these techniques.


Two English courses in literature or permission of department.