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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.

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.

Indicative Syllabus 2020-2021 (please note: a small number of changes are likely; secondary reading and further details still to come)


W1: Introduction


W2: Background I: selections from Marx and Engels, Communist Manifesto; from Nietzsche, The Genealogy of Morals; from Freud, (tba),from W. E. B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk.


W3: Background II: Leon Trotsky, ‘Literature and Revolution’; Wyndham Lewis, ‘Vorticism’; Filippo Marinetti, ‘The Founding and Manifesto of Modernism’; Tristan Tzara, ‘Dada Manifesto,’ Mina Loy, 'Feminist Manifesto.'


W4: Hugh MacDiarmid, A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle


W5: Bertholt Brecht, The Caucasian Chalk Circle and Brecht on Theatre


W7: Sergei Eisenstein (dir.), The Battleship Potemkin (film) and selections from Film Form


W8: Aimé Césaire, Notebook of a Return to My Native Land


W9: Tanizaki Jun’ichirō, In’ei Raisan/ In Praise of Shadows


W10: Marguerite Duras/ Alain Resnais, Hiroshima Mon Amour (film); screenplay by M. Duras.


W11: James Joyce, Dubliners


W12: Gertrude Stein, ‘Susie Asado’, ‘Tender Buttons’, 'Miss Furr and Miss Skeene'


W13: H. T. Tsiang, The Hanging on Union Square.


W14: Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God


W15: Pablo Neruda, Selected Poems


W17: Situationism: Selected Situationist texts (tba) from 'The Bureau of Public Secrets'


W18: Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49


W19: Sonallah Ibrahim, That Smell


W20: Denise Riley, selections (tba) from Selected Poems

Sample Essay Questions