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712-001 Seminar in Women Writers: Re-Gendering Modernism

712-001 Seminar in Women Writers: Re-Gendering Modernism
Instructor: Stewart Cole
"Modernism" is such a contested term in literary and cultural studies that no single course could possibly account for either the range of artistic productions that have been claimed as "Modernist" or the diversity of aesthetic criteria that might be mobilized to draw any given work under the Modernist umbrella. Indeed, many contemporary scholars argue that discussions of a single unitary Modernism should give way to more pluralistically conceived Modernisms in order to better account for the bewildering diversity of artistic reactions to the conditions of modernity produced during the first half of the twentieth century. In dialoguing with this pluralistic critical imperative, this course proceeds from the question: What does Modernism look like if we restrict our study of its productions to those generated by women? In other words, what conception(s) of Modernism might we arrive at if we largely exclude from our inquiry the Eliots, Faulkners, Hemingways, Joyces, Lawrences, Pounds, Yeatses (and so on) of the white male Modernist canon? Texts to be studied will include prose works by Djuna Barnes, Nella Larsen, Jean Rhys, Dorothy Richardson, and Virginia Woolf; poetry by H.D., Mina Loy, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Marianne Moore, and Laura Riding; and uncategorizable textual creations by Gertrude Stein. Because this is a graduate course in literature, we will of course focus most heavily on Modernist literary productions, but given Modernism's pan-artistic nature, we will also engage with works in other media—the paintings of Vanessa Bell and Tamara de Lempicka, for instance, or the musical compositions of Germaine Tailleferre, or the architectural designs of Eileen Gray. Our aim will ultimately be to generate our own working definitions of Modernism—re-gendered conceptions that we will test against seminal (I use the word advisedly!) statements on the nature and importance of this still-omnipresent cultural phenomenon. This course will thus serve as a both thorough introduction to Modernism and an incitement to continually recalibrate our (often exclusionary) understandings of it.

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