You are on page 1of 13

ENGL 521 | Fall 2017 | 1

Seminar in American Literature
Fall 2017
Dr. Sheila Liming Office hours:
701-777-2782 MWF 10 am – 12 pm,
Office: Merrifield 1B and by appointment

Course Description

Modernism was a literary and artistic movement that grew out of collective anxieties
about space, among other concerns.

Critic David Harvey, for instance, observes that in the later part of the nineteenth century,
the meaning of space altered radically. Those alterations were the result of new transportation
technologies (which made space appear faster), the creation of new nations and borders (which
made space appear negotiable but likewise political), and the movement of populations towards
urban centers (which made space appear valuable and scarce). In response to the reordering of
space that occurred during this period, Harvey explains, “neither literature nor art could avoid the
question of internationalism.” Indeed, modernism, it can be argued, was the first artistic
movement to take place on an international or global scale.

This course explores the cultural dynamics of the literary movement known as
modernism through the lens of transatlantic exchange. For decades, scholars of English literature
studied modernism with reference to only two countries: England and the United States. But, as a
movement, modernism encoded experiences of placelessness, of ex-patriotism, and of cross-
border migration. As such, we will be examining the various systems of exchange – economic,
artistic, cultural, and linguistic – that helped to define modernism while reading widely across
the canon of early twentieth-century literature. That reading will include figures that are already
sacred to Anglo modernism, like Gertrude Stein, Virginia Woolf, and T.S. Eliot. But it will also
extend our conversations about modernism to include fiction and poetry by writers who hail from
places like France, Argentina, Portugal, Scotland, and Norway. Overall, our goal will be to see
and to understand modernist literature within the context of nascent patterns of globalization. To
that end, we will supplement our reading of modernist fiction and poetry with theory and
criticism that takes stock of the history of modern globalization.

Course Objectives

• To provide students with an introduction to modernism as a movement and to the history of
modernist literature, in particular.
ENGL 521 | Fall 2017 | 2

• To professionalize and train students for additional, graduate-level work within the literary arts
curriculum by encouraging them to hone and shape contributions to ongoing debates about

• To impart processes of close reading, close writing, and attentive research as preparation for
advanced coursework in literary study, or advanced professional work in the related fields of
writing, editing, and publishing.

• To encourage multimodal thinking in both the consumption and construction of written texts, and
to sharpen students’ skills in both writing and creating textual artifacts.

• To establish standards for scholarly and professional discourse and participation through in-class
discussion, peer evaluation, and collaborative assignments.

• To encourage students to participate in ongoing scholarly debates and to take active roles in
shaping the future of those debates through critical thinking and responsive writing.

• To provide students with opportunities for professional development and pedagogical reflection
(through sample course design, lesson planning, practice lectures, etc.)

Required Texts

To be purchased [available via the UND Bookstore]:
Barnes, Djuna. Nightwood. New Directions, (1936) 2006.

Borges, Jorge Luis. Ficciones. Grove Press, (1945) 1994.

Baudelaire, Charles. The Flowers of Evil. Oxford World’s Classics, (1857) 2008.

Benjamin, Walter. The Writer of Modern Life. Belknap, 2006.

Eliot, T.S. The Waste Land. Norton, (1922) 2000.

Gibbon, Lewis Grassic. Sunset Song. Birlinn Ltd., (1932) 2006.

Hamsun, Knut. Hunger. Penguin, (1890) 1998.

Pessoa, Fernando. The Book of Disquiet. Penguin, 2002.

Stein, Gertrude. Three Lives. Penguin, (1909) 1990.

Toomer, Jean. Cane. Liveright, (1923) 2011.

Woolf, Virginia. To the Lighthouse. Harcourt Brace, (1927) 1989.

Additional Required Readings:
[available on Blackboard]
Berman, Marshall. Selections from All that is Solid Melts into Air. Penguin, (1982) 1988.
ENGL 521 | Fall 2017 | 3

Jameson, Frederic. “Baudelaire as Modernist and Postmodernist.” The Modernist Papers.
Verso, 2016: pp. 223-238.

Lastra, James. “Buñuel, Bataille, and Buster: or, The Surrealist Life of Things.” Critical
Quarterly, 51.2 (July 2009): pp. 16-38.

Wientzen, Timothy. “The Aesthetics of Hunger: Knut Hamsun, Modernism, and Starvation’s
Global Frame.” Novel, 48.2 (2015): pp. 208-223.

Required Film:
Buñuel, Luis, and Dalí, Salvador, dirs. Un Chien Andalou. 1929.

Assignments and Grading

Discussion Questions [10 pts. each]
Most weeks, students will be required to prepare and submit a question for use in our class
discussion. Rather than inquiring about the content of individual readings (with regards to plot,
character, etc.), these questions should be argumentative and should offer opinionated
interpretations of the text.

Discussion questions should be no more than 150 words long but should provide ample context –
including page numbers and direct references to the text – to aid our discussion of the key issues
described. In addition, discussion questions should be organized around a list of 3-4 keywords
that identify significant themes and subjects from the reading.

Discussion questions will be due before the start of class (by 4 p.m.) each Wednesday and
should be posted to Blackboard under the appropriate week’s heading.

Name: Student A
Keywords: urban, flâneur, space, advertising

In his essay “The Paris of the Second Empire in Baudelaire,” Walter Benjamin expands
upon the notion of the flâneur – or city street “stroller” – as the embodiment of modern,
Example: urban existence. Yet Benjamin points out that, in fact, “in those days it was impossible to
stroll about everywhere in the city. Before Haussmann, wide pavements were rare; the
narrow ones afforded little protection from vehicles” (68). As such, Benjamin asserts that the
practice of flânerie came about through the development of indoor public space, particularly
spaces of commerce (like the arcades described by Baudelaire in his Les Fleurs du Mal).

How does viewing flânerie through the lens of indoor space alter our understanding of this
concept? And given Benjamin’s emphasis on storefronts, arcades, and spaces of commerce,
how might we understand the connection between flânerie, urban idleness, and the growth of
advertising in the modern century?
ENGL 521 | Fall 2017 | 4

Midterm Essay (8-10 pages) [100 pts.]

Final Assignment: Abstract (500 words) [30 pts.]

Final Assignment: Critical Essay or Teaching Demonstration [120 pts.]
(15-20 pp.) (30 minute lecture)

Course Participation
Mid-semester [60 pts.]
Final [60 pts.]

Please note that all major assignments (the midterm essay and final assignment) must be
submitted in order for a student to receive a passing grade in this course.

Course Policies and Procedures

Since this is a discussion-based course, attendance is mandatory. Students in upper-level and
graduate courses should view course attendance as part of the job of being a student;
missing class should only happen under rare and exceptional circumstances, much like missing a
day of work.

You are generally allowed two absences without penalty— following your third absence, your
grade in the class will begin to drop by a half-a-letter grade per absence (5% of your total grade).
Plan ahead if you think you might miss class for religious holidays, travel, or for other scheduled
events. I do not distinguish between excused and unexcused absences. You are allowed two
absences – be they excused or unexcused – before your grade begins to decrease, unless other
special arrangements have been made with me ahead of time.

If you have extenuating circumstances significantly affecting your attendance throughout the
semester (such as an illness or a family emergency), please get in touch with me so we can
discuss your specific situation. If you miss more than the allotted days due to such extenuating
circumstances, we will discuss whether it’s prudent for you to continue in the course.

Late Arrival
Arrive on time. You will not receive an A in this class if you do not arrive on time. Lateness not
only disrupts the class but also demonstrates disrespect for your peers and for your instructor. If
you are more than 15 minutes late to class, you will be marked absent for that day.

Class Participation
This course depends upon the participation of its members. Participation, which includes both
classroom involvement and physically being in class, makes up roughly 20% of your total grade.
While your class participation grade falls to my discretion, there are several steps you can take to
ensure you achieve a satisfactory grade:
ENGL 521 | Fall 2017 | 5

• Come to class prepared, with a print copy of the required reading.
While laptop use is permitted in class, you stand to gain more from texts if you
read them in print form. Likewise, while are you permitted to bring your laptop
with you to class, you are expected to use it responsibly and to keep pace with in-
class activities and discussions. If I sense that this is not the case, and that your
laptop use is proving to be a distraction, I may ask you to close your computer or
to leave the classroom.

• Prepare in advance by taking notes on the required reading.
You should anticipate contributing to course discussions on a regular basis. This
means that you must both be
prepared (having completed the required reading and having taken notes on what
you read) and must formulate and offer contributions to the discussion on a
regular basis (at least once a week).

• Be courteous toward your peers. When you raise disagreement in class – either
with the instructor or with your peers – try to do so respectfully. Articulate your
reasons and grounds for disagreement and direct them towards an idea, rather
than a person. Failure to show adequate respect towards your peers or towards
your instructor may result in your being asked to leave the classroom. Such a
request will, in turn, affect my assessment of your class participation, and
possibly your attendance record as well.

• Keep in mind that participation will be assessed twice throughout the semester –
at the mid-semester point, and once again at the end. Feel free to check in with me
throughout the semester if you have questions about your participation grade or
progress in the class.

Scholastic Honesty, Plagiarism, and Cheating
At the University of North Dakota, we believe in the excellence of our students and in the
integrity of our academic programs. We also believe that your good ideas become better when
you test them against the ideas of others. So for this course, feel free to discuss your ideas about
the major writing assignments with other students. Collaborating on question/answer homework
assignments or open-book quizzes, however, is not acceptable; these types of assignments are
designed for me, your instructor, to monitor how you are handling specific parts of the course
material. Blatantly taking someone else’s words, ideas or concepts, and using them without
citing your source is plagiarism. So is using another student’s essay, or part of his or her essay,
as your own. In the world of writing (academic writing especially), this is a serious crime, and is
treated as such. Anyone who uses non-documented material from another source, including
online sources, will receive a failing grade for the entire course and will be referred to university
administrators for possible further disciplinary action.

These policies are concurrent with the University of North Dakota’s policies regarding scholastic
honesty. For more information about these policies, please refer to the “Scholastic Honesty”
section of the Undergraduate Academic Information materials available online at
ENGL 521 | Fall 2017 | 6

All final versions of essay assignments will be submitted to Blackboard, which runs digital
comparisons of submitted assignments in order to identify possible cases of plagiarism. For this
reason, you must submit final versions of papers to Blackboard. You may additionally submit
versions of your assignment through other electronic means (via email, for instance), but if you
fail to submit your paper to Blackboard, it will be treated as late, and lateness penalties will

In this course, we will talk about the differences between plagiarism and the misuse of sources. If
you have any questions regarding the appropriate use of source material (readings, critical
opinions, or supplemental research), please feel free to ask me. In my experience, those students
who plagiarize are also those who feel overwhelmed by the assignment and thus compelled to
use someone else’s work as their own. If you get so frustrated with an assignment that you feel
like your only option is to plagiarize, come see me. My role as a teacher is to help students, not
to punish them— please use me as a resource to help you write, brainstorm, or work out
assignments and essays.

General Guidelines for Submitting Assignments
All papers submitted in this class must comply with Modern Language Association (MLA)
guidelines and citation rules (see the 2017 MLA Manual, 8th edition, or associated web
resources). This means that you must provide MLA compliant documentation for the use of
additional sources, including:

• a Works Cited page, providing correct bibliographic information for each source
cited, quoted, or consulted in your paper

• correct in-text citations for each source cited, quoted, or consulted in your paper

If you are unsure of MLA guidelines, I suggest that you consult one of the following

The MLA Style Center:
A fee-based online resource (access is free if you purchase an MLA Manual)

The Online Writing Lab (OWL):
A free online resource that gives you detailed information about how to cite using a
variety of styles.

In addition to proper citation,

• All papers, including short response assignments, must be typed, double-spaced, with 1”

• All papers completed as homework – including “Discussion Questions” – must be
submitted electronically via Blackboard, unless otherwise specified.
ENGL 521 | Fall 2017 | 7

• Carefully edit and proofread all texts to eliminate problems in grammar, spelling, and

• Digital copies of all final papers must be cleanly edited and readable. This means that
you must remove all digital comments/suggestions, including highlighted or underlined
text, and including all comment balloons.

• Digital submissions must be formatted as either .doc or .docx (Microsoft Word) files.
Incorrectly formatted files (for example: .pdf, .txt) will not be graded and lateness
penalties will be applied until a correctly formatted file is submitted.

Documents that do not meet these and other assignment-specific requirements will not be

All written assignments must be submitted on the due date, and missing the class when the
assignment is due doesn’t mean your assignment isn’t late. Turning in an assignment on time is
part of doing the assignment and late work will be penalized, regardless of how well it’s

Lateness penalties are as follows:

• Papers and Projects. For every day that a midterm, a rough draft paper, a final paper, or a
project is late, you will lose five points from your final score.

• Daily assignments. All late assignments may receive a maximum of half-credit (50%),
regardless of how late they are.

Cell Phones, Laptops, etc.
Students are expected to participate and be engaged in class discussion. Therefore, students are
required to silence and stow phones during class. If I see you texting or using your phone during
class, you will be asked to leave and you will be marked absent.

Laptops may be used in class so long as they function as an aid to your learning. If I observe that
your laptop use is distracting you from participating or learning, I may ask you to close your
laptop or to leave the classroom.

Campus Resources

If you have a learning disability that could impair your progress in this course, please contact
Disability Services. Students are encouraged to register through Disability Services in order to
receive recommendations for learning accommodations.

Disability Services
ENGL 521 | Fall 2017 | 8

McCannel Hall Room 190

We can arrange to accommodate your learning style based on DS recommendations. Please
notify me at the start of the semester if you have specific needs, or if Disability Services has
provided you with a Verification of Needs for Disability Accommodations.

Writing Help
All students are encouraged to take advantage of UND’s Writing Center to receive help in
preparing writing assignments.

To make an appointment or speak with a tutor, visit their website, or the visit the Writing Center

UND Writing Center
Merrifield Hall Room 12


You can reach me via email, office phone, or a note in my mailbox in Merrifield Hall. The best
way to reach me, of course, is through email – I check it frequently and, while I cannot guarantee
an immediate reply, it is certainly the fastest way to get in touch.

If you have questions about the policies of this class, review the syllabus first, and then make
an appointment to speak with me.
ENGL 521 | Fall 2017 | 9

Course Schedule
August 23 DUE: Baudelaire, Les Fleurs du Mal (all of the poems from
uncensored 1861 edition: pp. 1-296)

August 30 DUE: discussion questions, by 4 p.m.
Benjamin, The Writer of Modern Life
(pp. 1 – 170) and Jameson, “Baudelaire as Modernist and
Postmodernist” [Blackboard]

September 6 DUE: discussion questions, by 4 p.m.
Hamsun, Hunger
Wientzen, “The Aesthetics of Hunger” [Blackboard]

September 13 DUE: discussion questions, by 4 p.m.
Stein, Three Lives

September 20 DUE: discussion questions, by 4 p.m.
Eliot, The Waste Land

September 27 DUE: discussion questions, by 4 p.m.
Toomer, Cane
Discuss requirements for Midterm Essays

October 4 DUE: Midterm Essays
Berman, selections from All That is Solid Melts into Air

October 11 DUE: discussion questions, by 4 p.m.
Woolf, To the Lighthouse

October 18 DUE: discussion questions, by 4 p.m.
Gibbon, Sunset Song

October 25 DUE: discussion questions, by 4 p.m.
Barnes, Nightwood
Discuss requirements for final assignment.

November 1 DUE: final assignment abstracts
Pessoa, Book of Disquiet
Discuss abstracts and schedule teaching demos.

November 8 DUE: discussion questions, by 4 p.m.
Borges, Ficciones
and Breton, Surrealist Manifesto [Blackboard]
ENGL 521 | Fall 2017 | 10

November 15 Buñuel / Dali, Un Chien Andalou (1929)
[Screen film before coming to class: it’s available for free
online via the Spanish Film Institute and the link is
available on Blackboard]
and Lastra, “Buñuel, Bataille, and Buster: or, The Surrealist
Life of Things” [Blackboard]

Teaching Demonstrations (if date is needed)

November 22 NO CLASS: Enjoy your Thanksgiving!

November 29 Teaching Demonstrations

December 6 DUE: final papers (for those choosing Option 1:
students should be prepared to share and discuss their
papers in class)
Teaching Demonstrations
ENGL 521 | Fall 2017 | 11

Midterm Essay: Close Reading [100 pts.]

For most literary critics, the aesthetic movement known as modernism is irrefutably tied to the
critical movement known as New Criticism. This is in part because modernist literature, in
emphasizing style, likewise tended to highlight what Frederic Jameson labels “ideologies of
autonomy” – that is to say, the belief that a text is capable of standing alone. New Criticism,
which rose to prominence on the heels of modernism in the 1930s, sought to establish critical
“autonomy” through the practice of “close reading,” a method which argued that a text ought to
be read on its own and without recourse to biography, to history or context, to secondary
criticism, theory, philosophy, or to bibliographic records.

Given the history of this connection between modernism and New Criticism, you are assigned to
write a paper that delivers a close reading of a single text. You may choose to focus on any of the
texts that we have covered so far in our course reading – including non-fiction texts like
Benjamin’s essays on Charles Baudelaire, which were written in 1930s and so are
contemporaneous with both modernism and New Criticism.

Whatever you choose, your paper ought to isolate and emphasize a single idea, concept, or
theme. Indeed, you should consider ways to narrow the scope of your essay and, rather than
trying to account for the entirety of a literary work, you should focus on a single part (a single
poem from Les Fleurs du Mal, or a single section of The Waste Land; a single essay from
Benjamin’s Writer of Modern Life, or a single vignette from Toomer’s Cane; etc.).

Your final paper is to be conference-length (8-10 pages, roughly) and should only refer to the
primary text in question. (Remember to include a Works Cited entry for that text.)
ENGL 521 | Fall 2017 | 12

Final Assignment: Abstract (proposal) [30 pts.]

An “abstract” offers an overview of your argumentative approach to a particular subject.
Scholars often submit abstracts when applying to academic conferences, or as an accompaniment
to a journal article. Here, you are tasked with drafting an “abstract” of your plans for your final

Begin by reviewing the requirements for the final assignment and by drafting ideas for how to
complete it. Then, prepare an abstract (250-500 words) that outlines the following in prose form:

• The subject of your paper or presentation.

• Your working argument or overall interpretative angle.
(This should be clearly stated within the first few sentences of the abstract – keep
in mind that these documents are meant to be skimmable. Economize and aim for
precision in your word choice.)

• A brief discussion of the major texts or sources you plan to incorporate. While
your final assignment ought to include engagement with secondary texts and
criticism, you may not have yet have a clear understanding of what those texts
might include. If that’s the case, your abstract should specify methodological and
critical approaches, subject areas where you intend to focus your research, and /
or key strains of critical debate. The idea is to show where the critical
conversation lies and how you intend to enter or contribute to it via this

Abstracts are due on November 1 and if you choose Option 2 (Teaching Demonstration), we
will be scheduling teaching demos on that day in class.

If you lack familiarity with modernist literature or are struggling to identify a “new” text
to read in connection with this assignment, please make an appointment to speak with me
in advance of the abstract due date! I am happy to help and will assist in you developing
your paper topic. J
ENGL 521 | Fall 2017 | 13

Final Assignment [120 pts.]

You have two options for the final assignment. Both options require you to do additional, outside
research and to work with primary texts that have not yet been covered by our class readings.

Option 1: Research Paper (15-20 pages) Option 2: Teaching Demonstration (30 mins.)

Prepare an essay that places a work of modernist Prepare and deliver a 30-minute teaching demonstration
literature in conversation with at least one other that introduces the class to an additional work of modernist
text that we have covered in our course readings. literature that we have not covered in our class readings,
The literary work in question can be “new” (i.e. not and which puts that work in conversation with at least one
covered already by this syllabus), or it can be text that we have covered in our course readings.
selected from among our course readings.
Whichever option you choose, you must create a The “new” text can be from any genre (fiction, poetry,
conversation between it and either another work of drama, film) and from any national or cultural tradition. It
modernist literature or a critical source that we have should, though, exhibit clear correspondences to
already discussed this semester. modernism, be they stylistic, thematic, or historical. In
your demonstration, you should seek to establish how this
The subject of your essay may include any genre “new” text connects to discussions of modernism by
(fiction, poetry, drama, film) and may hail from any offering comparisons to other works from the modernist
national or cultural tradition. It should, though, canon. At the same time, you should be thinking about
exhibit clear correspondences to modernism, be they how cross-cultural and transatlantic systems of exchange
stylistic, thematic, or historical. In your essay, you (cultural traditions; translation history; colonial histories;
should seek to establish how this primary text etc.) might come into play in your discussion of these
connects to discussions of modernism by offering texts.
comparisons to other works from the modernist
canon. At the same time, you should be thinking Your teaching demo ought to be styled as a lecture, but
about how cross-cultural and transatlantic systems keep in mind that a lecture requires you to model a
of exchange (cultural traditions; translation history; reading of the text (not just simply present information
colonial histories; etc.) might come into play in your about it). As such, your lecture should incorporate relevant
discussion of these texts. critical and scholarly sources from your research (at least
four). You might also choose to incorporate discussion
Your reading of primary texts should be supported questions or brief activities, but keep in mind that your
by research and by engagement with the wider audience will likely be unfamiliar with the subject of your
fields of scholarship about modernism. You should presentation.
aim to incorporate at least four critical or scholarly
sources into your paper.

Final papers will be due on the last day of Teaching demonstrations will take place
class (Wednesday, December 6). during the final weeks of class.

Both of these assignment options require you to do outside research. If you aren’t sure about
how to get started on that research, please make an appointment to speak either with me or
with a librarian at the Chester Fritz Library well in advance of the proposal deadline. (I’m
more than happy to help, but I can offer more effective advice during the proposal stage, and less
effective advice in the days leading up to the final deadline.)