ENG 235 Modern American Writing

Dean Flower, M W 1:10 PM-2:30 PM


What has come to be called  Modernism in American literature was invented about a hundred years ago in the first decade of the 20th century.  In fact the whole era from 1909 to 1940  was defined by a spirit of radical innovation.  Even before the cataclysm of the Great War our writers recognized that the old modes of prose and poetry were inadequate—stale, futile, irrelevant, unreal.  Ezra Pound said "the age demanded" an image of its own chaos and confusion, and T. S. Eliot complied by writing that great disaster poem, The Waste Land.  This course will trace that radical, innovative spirit in the early writings of Gertrude Stein, Pound, and Eliot.  Writers of fiction no less than of poetry were driven by the impulse to "Make in new," in Pound's famous phrase, as we will see in the narrative experiments of Sherwood Anderson, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Faulkner, and Zora Neale Hurston—each re-inventing narrative form in his or her own unique way.  Even writers of an older generation like the conservative Robert Frost and the austere Wallace Stevens were newly defined by the revolution, and contributed greatly to it.  What we continue to call "modern' in this writing—out of respect for its still-breathtaking originality, perhaps—will be the central focus of this course. 

Probable Texts:

The Norton Anthology of American Literature, Vol D: 1914-1945.  Including Faulkner's As I Lay Dying and modernist poetry by Eliot, Pound, Stevens, Frost, Marianne Moore, Hart Crane, Edna St Vincent Millay, and others.

Gertrude Stein, Three Lives (1909)

Sherwood Anderson, Winesburg, Ohio (1919)

Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises (1926)

Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby (1925)

Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God  (1937)