Engl436a – Objectives (201709)

English 436a familiarizes students with the cultural and literary changes taking hold in the United Kingdom in the first half of the twentieth century. It introduces students to some of the most challenging — and rewarding — novels of the period. It thus provides them with the means to identify both the century’s inheritance from its predecessor aesthetic movements, and the legacy it has left for its successors. Students will gain fluency in multiple aspects of narrative experiment characteristic of modernist novels, including stream of consciousness, non-linear narration, narrative gaps, unreliable narrators, delayed decoding, and open-ended narratives. They will learn to identify these techniques, to situate them in relation to the prevailing realist methods of both the previous and following artistic mainstreams, to relate them to other experiments in the non-literary arts, and to read them for their engagements with wider socio-historical contexts. Students will gain familiarity with the conventions of realist writing and how it is experimented with in the modernist context. Students will hone their literary critical skills and learn about more sophisticated approaches to the study of literature. Through individual and group assignments they will practice these skills and build their abilities to read cultural texts carefully. Guided exposure to basic digital humanities methods for exploring the expansive contexts for the course will give students basic familiarity with some of these methods, and allow them to contribute directly to the growing resources in the field.

Students will learn how to

  • write convincing arguments in stylish prose
  • identify patterns of political engagement in ostensibly non-political texts
  • read style and form as signifying patterns with real socio-political effects
  • understand how cultural products engage with and help shape cultural contexts


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