Universität Augsburg, 2015/16

Virginia Woolf famously stated that “on or about December, 1910, human character changed.” Modernism saw unprecedented technological progress and industrialized warfare, and revolutionized the human (un)consciousness and social systems. It also led to an explosion of creative energy, as writers broke with literary traditions of the past which were deemed too genteel to account for the modernist condition. In this seminar, we will examine the ways in which modernist poets re-imagined the subjective experience of remembering, feeling, and being in time. Their artistic movements were transnational and urban, and we will discuss the Avant-garde manifestos that sprang from the creative scenes in Paris, London, or Zurich. The European metropolis is only part of the modernist story, though, and we will trace transatlantic connections to then focus in depth on how American modernists established a distinct cultural scene and new American vernacular. This leads us, for instance, to innovative artistic engagements with nature, but also into New York City and the African American Harlem Renaissance. Throughout the course aesthetic questions about style and technique run alongside broader questions about history, politics and sexuality, and the texts are set in the context of contemporary visual art, cinema and other media, psychoanalysis and science. The authors we will discuss include Pound, Eliot, H.D., Williams, Frost, McKay, Hughes and others. This is essential reading for any student of American literature, but will also introduce you to fascinating forms of expression; you will gain skills in poetry reading and develop your sensitivity to what language is and how writers can experiment with it.