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EN2L3/EN3D1 Modernist Cultures

This module is not running in 2022/23.

*The syllabus and assessment pattern for this year is likely to remain very similar next year, but please note that all information here is subject to change*

Lillian Hingley

This module is a pathway-approved option for World and Comparative Literature, a distributional on the English pathway, and an option on all other pathways.

Seminar times

Tuesdays 11.00-13.00; 15.00-17.00


1.5 hour seminar per week, terms 1 and 2

Method of Assessment:

Finalists - 2 x 4000 word essays, chosen from a list of set questions, 1 each on Term 1 and Term 2 module content.

Intermediate - 2 x 3500 word essays, as above.


The module studies selected modernist fictional texts as a response to the radically changed perceptions of time and space brought about by social modernity between the 1900s and the 1930s.. A major focus of the module is the transformation of narrative modes of representation in this period. We will explore in particular the challenges posed to the novel form, and to narrative strategies, by the disruptive energies of modernity, such as imperialism; war, urbanization; suffragism; and new technologies of communication, transport and media. Topics explored include the modernist critique of imperial ideals of masculinity and Englishness; avant-garde attacks on liberal democracy; the traumatic effects of the First World War on cultural memory; articulations between urban, national and global space; modernist discourses of primitivism, ‘instinct’, and the unconscious; changing ideologies of sexuality, eroticism and gender. This module offers an opportunity for detailed, in-depth study of one of the major modernist texts, James Joyce's Ulysses; Term 2 is set aside for this purpose.

Primary Reading Term 1:

Week 1: Presentation of module.

Week 2: Pericles Lewis’ ‘Introduction’ in The Cambridge Introduction to Modernism, Part 1/9 and 2/9 of Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times, Opening bars of Stravinsky's ‘Rite of Spring’ and Picasso's 'Les Demoiselles d'Avignon'.

Week 3: Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.

Week 4: Ford Madox Ford’s The Good Soldier.

Week 5: E. M. Forster Howards End.

Week 6: Reading Week.

Week 7: Blast magazine.

Week 8: Virginia Woolf’s Jacob’s Room.

Week 9: D. H. Lawrence’s Women in Love.

Week 10: Jean Rhys’ Voyage in the Dark.

Primary Reading Term 2:

Weeks 1-5, 7-10: James Joyce’s Ulysses (use stipulated edition below).

See secondary reading and further reading here.

Advance preparation

The reading for this module is very rewarding but requires a serious commitment to advance preparation. Please do as much reading of the primary texts as you possibly can before the module begins. Some Term 1 texts, such as Women in Love, are substantial in length. Above all, please bear in mind that extra time needs to be set apart for reading Ulysses, to which Term 2 is devoted. It is vital that you read the novel over the summer. Students are expected to have read the whole of Ulysses before the seminars begin. 

If you have time for further reading before October, consult the introductory texts listed in Further Reading.

Texts to Buy

Please obtain the stipulated editions. In every class we will discuss specific passages in detail. The stipulated editions will assist your learning, as they enable you to find these passages easily in class, and often contain essential notes and introductory material. They are often available to buy used online for a modest price.

Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness and Other Tales (Oxford World’s Classics)

Forster, E.M. Howards End (Penguin 20th Century Classics)

Ford, Ford Madox. The Good Soldier (Oxford World’s Classics)

Woolf, Virginia. Jacob's Room ( Oxford World's Classics)

Lawrence, D.H. Women in Love (Oxford World's Classics)

Rhys, Jean. Voyage in the Dark (Penguin Modern Classics)

Joyce, James. Ulysses (Penguin*)

*NB A Note on Editions of Ulysses

The prescribed edition is the Penguin Modern Classics Edition. It is crucial for us to all be working from the same edition with the same page numbers in class. The Penguin Annotated Students Edition, ed. Declan Kiberd, with the same pagination, is even better if you can get hold of it. Other editions, including electronic editions, will not be viable with a text of this length, as all members of the class need to be able to find page numbers in the specified edition easily and quickly for regular class discussion of specific passages.

Indicative Outline Syllabus:

Term 1: 

  • Edwardian Critiques of Empire:

Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

E.M. Forster Howards End 

Ford Madox Ford, The Good Soldier

  • Cultural Politics of the Avant-Garde:

Wyndham Lewis et al, Blast (online at Modernist Journals Project)

  • Postwar Men and Women:

Virginia Woolf, Jacob's Room

  • Modernist Sexual Politics:

D.H. Lawrence, Women in Love

  • Metropolis and Colony

Jean Rhys, Voyage in the Dark 

Term 2:

James Joyce, Ulysses (**See Above for Stipulated Edition**)

Week 1: ‘Telemachus’

Week 2: ‘Nestor’, 'Proteus'

Week 3: 'Calypso', 'The Lotus-Eaters’

Week 4: ‘Hades', ‘Aeolus'

Week 5: ‘Lestrygonians', 'Scylla and Charybdis'


Week 7: 'The Wandering Rocks', 'Sirens'

Week 8: ‘Cyclops’, ‘Nausicaa’

Week 9: ‘Oxen of the Sun’, ‘Circe’, ‘Eumaeus’

Week 10: ‘Ithaca’, ‘Penelope’