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EN2K7/EN3K8 Twentieth Century Avant-Gardes: Culture, Politics, Contestation

Convenors: Prof. Michael Gardiner and Prof. Daniel Katz


EN2K7 - non-finalists: 1 x 3,000 word essay + 1 x 4,000 word essay

EN3K8 - finalists: 1 x 3,000 word essay + 1 x 5,000 word essay

(Weighting of essays is 40-60)

Essays are submitted through Tabula. Write on at least one text from the relevant term. You can add any other text(s) you like, from within or outwith the module, but you don't have to. Writing on one set text is fine. Bringing together two or more set texts is fine. Bringing together a set text and non-course text(s) is also fine. Term One Weeks Nine and Ten texts (Tanizaki, Resnais) can be written about in the first and/ or second essay, but don't write on the same text(s) for both. You make your own title. You're welcome to check your title with your tutor beforehand, but this is not compulsory (Term 1 only). For Term 3 essays, please check your title with D. Katz.

This is a Pathway Approved Option for the World and Comparative Literature Pathway and one of the Distributional Requirements for the English Pathway. Can also be selected as an option under the remaining Pathways


This module looks at literary and artistic avant-gardes of the twentieth century, within broader contexts of social and political action. The module is organised in terms of thinking about contestation in terms of: 1) a Euro-American political-economic-cultural-linguistic hegemony on the ‘global’; 2) a class hegemony within Europe and the Anglosphere, and the response of ‘provincial’ modernism (MacDiarmid and Joyce) as well as African diasporic writing; 3) a hegemony of liberal democracy, answered by various kinds of revolutionary modernism (Futurism, Eisenstein, Brecht, Situationism); 4) social and sexual hegemony, thrown into question by elements in queer writing and surrealism; 5) formal hegemony, as an enforcer of market-oriented culture industries. Overall, the module considers modernist formal departures as more than just ‘clever innovations’, but also as reformulations of the relationship between the aesthetic and the social. It can be taken as a ‘twentieth century literature/ culture’ module, as a modernism module, or as an introduction to important political and theoretical issues in modern culture.

Talis Aspire Reading List, including texts suggested for purchase (make sure to click here)Link opens in a new window
Syllabus 2021-22

(Notes: 1. a small number of changes may be made as the module goes on; 2. recommended texts are not compulsory, but may help. They are not necessarily part of seminar discussion, and are not necessarily held electronically by the library; 3. other recommended texts may be mentioned in the tutor introduction, ask if you are unclear)


W1: Introduction

W2: Manifestos I. SET TEXTS: selections from Marx and Engels, Communist ManifestoLink opens in a new window; from Nietzsche, The Will to PowerLink opens in a new window (pages 7-27); Freud, "Repression" (available on Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing, via our library portal. It is found in the Standard Edition, volume 14); W. E. B. DuBois, 'Of Our Spiritual Strivings'Link opens in a new window from The Souls of Black Folk.
RECOMMENDED TEXTS: Michael Bell, 'The Metaphysics of Modernism', in ed. Levenson, The Cambridge Companion to Modernism (1999/ 2011) (electronic through library);
(useful for whole module: eds. Kolocotroni et al, Modernism: An Anthology of Sources and Documents (EUP, 1998); eds. Alys Moody and Stephen Ross, Global Modernists on Modernism (Bloomsbury, 2020) (electronic through library))


W3: Manifestos II. SET TEXTS: Leon Trotsky, Literature and RevolutionLink opens in a new window (chapters 5 & 8 only); Wyndham Lewis, Manifestos from BlastLink opens in a new window (read from beginning to page 43); Filippo Marinetti, 'The Founding and Manifesto of Futurism'; Tristan Tzara, 'Dada Manifesto'; Mina Loy, 'Feminist Manifesto' (links or look for your preferred edition)
(** nb article and draft on the Talis Aspire script are unrelated .** You are NOT expected to read the article on Talis unless you want to)
RECOMMENDED TEXT: Marjorie Perloff, The Futurist Moment: Avant-Garde, Avant-Guerre, and the Language of Rupture (U Chicago Press, 2004), Chapter Three, 'The Manifesto as Art Form' (book not in library, but chapter also published as an article, here: opens in a new window)


W4: SET TEXT: Hugh MacDiarmid, A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle (Polygon 2008)
RECOMMENDED TEXT: Scott Lyall, Hugh MacDiarmid's Poetry and Politics of Place (EUP, 2006), Chapter One pp. 34-38 only, and Chapter Five


W5: SET TEXTS: Bertholt Brecht, The Caucasian Chalk Circle (trans. Eric Bentley - please buy or borrow this and **don't trust Talis Aspire**); and Brecht on Theatre: 'Theatre for Pleasure or Theatre for Instruction', 131-139; 'Verfremdung Effects in Chinese Acting', 176-185; 'The Street Scene', 203-212; 'Short Organon for the Theatre', 271-308
*** Note that Talis Aspire points us towards an edition and translation that is not the one it claims on the list ***


W7: SET TEXTS: Sergei Eisenstein (dir.), The Battleship Potemkin (easily findable but also check library); and Eisenstein, Film Form: 'Through Theatre to Cinema'; 'The Cinematographic Principle and the Ideogram'; 'A Dialectic Approach to Film Form'; 'Methods of Montage'; 'The Structure of the FIlm'


W8: SET TEXT: Aimé Césaire, Notebook of a Return to My Native Land. ed. and trans. Clayton Eschelman, Césaire's Complete Poems, or trans. Eschelman edition Wesleyan UP, 2001 if you have it; could also consider trans. Mireille Rosello on Bloodaxe Books
*** Note that the Talis Aspire list sends you to the wrong edition ***
RECOMMENDED TEXTS: André Breton, 'Aimé Césaire: A Great Black Poet', or other writing on surrealism by Breton


W9: SET TEXT: Tanizaki Jun’ichirō, In’ei Raisan/ In Praise of Shadows (trans. Seidensticker, Vintage 2001), or other edition of Seidensticker translation
RECOMMENDED TEXTS: Akira Mizuta Lippit, Atomic Light (Shadow Optics) (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2005), pp. 21-29 and 107-111; Michael Gardiner, The British Stake in Japanese Modernity (New York: Routledge, 2019), pp. 104-114 - both digital via Warwick library:

W10: SET TEXT: Marguerite Duras/ Alain Resnais, Hiroshima Mon Amour (film)
RECOMMENDED TEXT: Hiroshima Mon Amour screenplay by M. Duras (any edition)

(Last year's MG mini-talks:

Manifestos I:
Manifestos II:
A Drunk Man:
Hiroshima Mon Amour:


W11: James Joyce, Dubliners. Recommended Reading: David Lloyd, Counterparts: Dubliners, Masculinity, and Temperance Nationalism (available as e-text through Talis Aspire). All seminars mini-lecture--click here.Link opens in a new window


W12: Gertrude Stein, ‘Susie Asado’, ‘Tender Buttons’, 'Miss Furr and Miss Skeene.' Recommended Reading: Mia You, 'Buttons and Holes: Stein and Picasso at Le Bon Marché.' ELH 20.3 (2020). (available through our library portal). Mini-lecture for all groups hereLink opens in a new window.


W13: H. T. Tsiang, The Hanging on Union Square. Recommended Reading: Aaron S. Lecklider, "H. T. Tsiang's Proletarian Burlesque: Performance and Perversion in The Hanging on Union Square. Melus, vol. 26, no. 4 (2011). Link opens in a new window

Mini-lecture (all groups) on Tsiang here.Link opens in a new window

W14: Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God. Recommended Reading: Isiah Lavender III, "An Afrofuturist Reading of Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God," LIT: Literature, Interpretation, Theory, 27:3, 2016.Link opens in a new window

Mini-lecture (all groups) on Hurston.Link opens in a new window


W15: Pablo Neruda, from Selected Poems: “Tonight I can write…”; “Weak with the Dawn”; “Ars Poetica”; “Lone Gentleman”; “Barcarole”; “Walking Around”; “There’s no forgetting”; "I'm Explaining a Few Things"; “Discoverers of Chile”; “Ode to Clothes”; “Ode to the Tomato”; "And How Long?"; "Too Many Names"; "The Portrait in the Rock"; "Fiesta's End, xii, xiii"; "The People"; "Poetry."

selections from Passions and Impressions. Recommended Reading: Greg Dawes, "Realism, Surrealism, Socialist Realism and Neruda's 'Guided Spontaneity'" (Cultural Logic, 2003; open access text which can be found on an internet search).

Neruda lecture here.Link opens in a new window


W17: Situationism: Situationist texts: Guy Debord, 'One More Try if You Want to be SituationistsLink opens in a new window'. And: Debord, Report on the Construction of Situations...' (1957); Debord, 'Theory of the Dérive' (1958); Situationist International, 'Détournement as Negation and Prelude' (1959); Debord, 'The Situationists and the New Forms of Action in Politics and Art" (1963); René Viénet, 'The Situationists and the New Forms of Action Against Politics and Art' (1967); all from 'The Bureau of Public Secrets'.Link opens in a new window And: Debord, 'Contribution to the Debate "Is Surrealism Alive or Dead?"' (1958).

Recommended Reading: McKenzie Wark, from The Beach Beneath the Street, Chapter 3: "The Torrent of History." (should be posted on Talis Aspire; available as electronic book through our library portal).

Mini-lecture here!Link opens in a new window


W18: Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49. Recommended Reading: Robin Blyn, "Beyond Anarchist Miracles: The Crying of Lot 49 and Network Aesthetics."Modernism/Modernity, 27.3, 2020.Link opens in a new window

Pynchon Lecture here!Link opens in a new window

W19: Sonallah Ibrahim, That Smell & Notes From Prison. Recommended Reading: Robyn Creswell, "Translator's Introduction" to our edition.

Ibrahim Lecture here.Link opens in a new window

W20: Denise Riley, from Selected Poems: 'A note on sex and "the reclaiming of language"'; 'she's imagining her wife'; 'postcard'; 'I heard the water...': 'An infant'; 'You have a family?'; 'hold fast in arms'; 'assume a country'; 'In 1970'; 'Ah, so'; 'No work in Britain; working abroad'; 'Laibach Lyrik: Slovenia, 1991'; 'A shortened set'; 'Shantung'; 'What else'; 'Rayon'; 'Dark looks'; 'The Castalian Spring'; 'Curmudgeonly'; '"Affections of the Ear"'. From The Words of Selves: Chapter 3: "Lyric selves."

Recommended Reading: Samuel Solomon, from Lyric Pedagogy and Marxist Feminism: Social Reproduction and the Institutions of Poetry, Chap. 2: "Denise Riley's Socialized Biology".

Riley lecture here!Link opens in a new window

Initial Additional Reading:

David Ayers, Benedikt Hjatarson, et al., eds. Utopia: The Avant-Garde, Modernism and (Im)possible Life (DeGruyter, 2015)

Ernst Bloch, Bertholt Brecht et al. Aesthetics and Politics (Verso, 1980)

Sascha Bru. The European Avant-Gardes, 1905-1935: A Portable Guide (Edinburgh UP, 2018).

Peter Burger. Theory of the Avant-Garde (University of Minnesota Press, 1984)

Erin Carlston. Thinking Fascism: Sapphic Modernism and Fascist Modernity (Stanford UP, 1998)

Natalia Cecire. Experimental: American Literature and the Aesthetics of Knowledge (Johns Hopkins UP, 2019)

Sam Cooper. The Situationist International in Britain (Routledge, 2017)

Robert Crawford. Devolving English Literature (Edinburgh UP, 2000)

Wai Chee Dimock. Through Other Continents: American Literature Across Deep Time (Princeton UP, 2006)

Laura Doyle and Laura Winkiel, eds. Geomodernisms: Race, Modernism, Modernity (Indiana UP, 2005)

Ales Erjavec, ed. Aesthetic Revolutions and Twentieth-Century Avant-Garde Movements (Duke UP, 2015)

Susan Stanford Friedman, Planetary Modernisms: Provocations on Modernity Across Time (Columbia UP, 2015)

Henry Louis Gates. The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of African-American Literary Criticism (Oxford UP, 1988)

Harry Harootunian. Overcome By Modernity: History, Culture, and Community in Inter-War Japan (Princeton UP, 2002)

Alastair Hemmens and Gabriel Zacarias, eds. The Situationist International: A Critical Handbook (Pluto, 2020)

Andrew Hewitt. Fascist Modernism: Aesthetics, Politics, and the Avant-Garde (Stanford UP, 1996)

Yunte Huang. Transpacific Displacement: Ethnography, Translation, and Intertextual Travel in Twentieth-Century American Literature (University of California Press, 2002)

Daniel Katz. American Modernism's Expatriate Scene: The Labour of Translation (Edinburgh UP, 2007)

Rosalind Krauss. The Originality of the Avant-Garde and Other Modernist Myths (MIT Press, 1986)

David Lloyd. Anomalous States: Irish Writing and the Post-Colonial Moment (Duke UP, 1993)

Tom McDonough, ed. Guy Debord and the Situationist International (MIT Press, 2004)

Alys Moody and Stephen J. Ross, eds. Global Modernists on Modernism: An Anthology (Bloomsbury, 2020)

Michael North. Reading 1922: A Return to the Scene of the Modern (Oxford UP, 2002)

Marjorie Perloff. The Futurist Moment: Avant-Garde, Avant-Guerre, and the Language of Rupture (University of Chicago Press, 2004)

Martin Puchner. Poetry of the Revolution: Marx, Manifestos, and the Avant-Garde (Princeton UP, 2005)

Jean-Michel Rabaté. 1913: The Cradle of Modernism (Blackwell, 2007)

Franklin Rosemont and Robin D. G. Kelley, eds. Black, Brown & Beige: Surrealist Writings from Africa and the Diaspora (University of Texas Press, 2009).

Sophie Seita. Provisional Avant-Gardes: Little Magazine Communities from Dada to Digital (Stanford UP, 2019)

Jeffrey Schnapp and Matthew Tiews, eds. Crowds (Stanford UP, 2006)

Samuel Solomon, Lyric Pedagogy and Marxist-Feminism (Bloomsbury, 2019)

Steven Yao. Translation and the Languages of Modernism (Palgrave Macmillan, 2002)

Delia Ungureanu. From Paris to Tlön: Surrealism as World Literature (Bloomsbury, 2018)

Eric White. Transatlantic Avant-Gardes: Little Magazines and Localist Modernism (Edinburgh UP, 2013).

Laura Winkiel. Modernism, Race and Manifestos (Cambridge UP, 2008).

Term One Sample Titles:

These are improvised sample titles; they mostly to give you an idea of pitching, and we recommend that you create your own title. If you would like to have a title okayed by me (MG - Term One), that would be fine, but this isn’t compulsory.


. Characteristics of manifestos as a literary genre

. The politics of Italian futurism

. Futurism and the rise of the automobile

. Futurist temporality and the 2000s victory of ‘retro’

. Text and image in 1910s manifestos

. Utility and beauty in 1920s Marxist aesthetics

. What does twenty-first century Trotskyite culture look like?

. Fragmentation and ’split selves’ in Hugh MacDiarmid’s A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle and Ezra Pound’s Cantos

[Reminder: as long as you have one course text, you can bring in anything else]

. Was Hugh MacDiarmid’s A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle really within the European avantgarde mainstream?

. MacDiarmid and the strategies of the ‘minor language’

. Brechtian strategy and early Soviet communism

. Brechtian A-Effects and [add any French New Wave film]

. The politics of cinema in Battleship Potemkin and the kino-oki movement

. Attitudes to cinema in [one or two course texts]

. The stance on surrealism in Aimé Césaire’s Notebook

. Césaire, Fanon, and the claims of Caribbean modernism

. Was there an ‘East Asian modernism’?

. Montage and Chinese language

. Tanizaki’s shadow and radical non-dualism

. Notes on a ‘counter-Newtonian technology’

. Violence in Alain Resnais’s Nuit et Brouillard and Hiroshima Mon Amour

. Nuclear standoff and the aesthetics of New Wave film

. Sinophilic negotiations in Bertolt Brecht’s ‘Verfremdung Effects in Chinese Acting’ and Jean-Luc Godard’s La Chinoise