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EN268 Modernist Cultures


This module is open to third years only. It a pathway-approved option for World and Comparative Literature, a distributional on the English pathway, and an option on all other pathways.


Seminars: Tuesday 12:30 - 2:00, Tuesday 2:30 - 4:00


The module studies selected modernist texts as a response to the radically changed perceptions of time and space brought about by social modernity. It treats literary modernism as a plurality of innovative or experimental writing practices, arising at different times and places, though often within shared intellectual networks, 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.

 Indicative Outline Syllabus:

Term 1: 

  • Edwardian Critiques of Empire:

Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

Ford Madox Ford, The Good Soldier

E.M. Forster Howards End 

  • 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 Below for Stipulated Edition**)



Seminars per week: 1 x 1.30 hours per week

Module Duration: 2 terms (20 weeks)

Method of Assessment:

1 x 5000 word essay (50%) plus 1 x 2 hour exam (50%)

The examination paper will consist of one critical analysis of a passage from Joyce's Ulysses, plus one essay question on other topics and texts covered by the module syllabus.

For the 5000 word essay, students choose one from a list of set questions, on either Term 1 or Term 2 module content.

Essay Deadline:

These are set according to whether you choose to write on Term 1 or Term 2 material.

Tuesday Term 2, Week 3
Tuesday Term 3, Week 2

The electronic essay deadline will default to Term 1, so students wishing to hand in their essays at the second deadline need to obtain from the Department Office and complete a form.


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 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.