Friday, August 27, 2004

English 449 Course Description

The Spirits of Modernity

For some, the advent of modernity turned human beings into machines, deadening the spirit via industrialization, the banality of commodity culture, and the specter of mechanized war. But modernist and postcolonial writers have generally found the experience of modernity more complicated. While most major writers of the 20th century rejected organized religious institutions, influential writers like T.S. Eliot actually turned to organized religious faith as an answer to the perplexing demands of modern life. Writers like James Joyce, H.D., E.M. Forster, D.H. Lawrence, and Salman Rushdie, for their part, have expressed profound ambivalence about religion and spirituality in their major works. The modern struggle with religious belief, textuality, and social identity leads to “answers” which are sometimes surprising, and which often engages issues of cultural difference as well as gender and sexuality. Though this is primarily a course in literature, we will also read essays by critics and theorists like Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, Max Weber, Edward Said, and Talal Asad, among others. Also, final papers will be on topics of students' choosing, not necessarily limited to issues of “spirit.” Primary texts include: James Joyce, Ulysses, H.D. Trilogy, T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets, Salman Rushdie, The Satanic Verses, E.M. Forster, A Passage to India, and James Wood, The Book Against God.