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Organization, Regulations, and Courses 2023-24

ENGL 62.05 The Horrors of Survival: American Literatures of Modernity

There is a significant period of modernization in US culture from about 1850-1920—a decade before the Civil War to the aftermath of World War I, encompassing Reconstruction, the Gilded Age, the devastating relocation of indigenous Americans, and the development of film and photography—which coincides with one of the most definitive and transformative passages in American self-identity, yet which is under-studied compared to the antebellum period (late 18th-early 19th century) and the period of “high modernism” (1920s-40s). Perhaps part of the reason is that what counts as modernity in these years is not yet modernism, but a process (always debatable) of “becoming-modern,” as if half the time there is a lingering preoccupation with pre-Civil War modes of life and the other half looks forward to a period of explosive economic growth and cultural change. Notably, this transitional period is when philosophical and scientific theories of survival, evolution, and inheritance of various sorts became predominant, alongside experiences of renewed racial violence, horrific catastrophes, economic turbulence, and political (dis)enfranchisement. By the early twentieth century, the psychiatric language of “trauma” dominated the understanding of subjectivity and the language of survival accordingly expands to include various forms of lingering, shock, strangeness, and disturbance that would soon take their place as hallmarks of the aesthetics of modernism. Tracking these currents, this course investigates episodes of survival from the personal (war, sexual assault, grief), the institutional (Jim Crow, Social Darwinism), historical (survivals of the Civil War, slavery) and media-technological (photography and film), in search of a definition of US modernity as a mode of transitional experience.

Degree Requirement Attributes

Dist:LIT; WCult:W

The Timetable of Class Meetings contains the most up-to-date information about a course. It includes not only the meeting time and instructor, but also its official distributive and/or world culture designation. This information supersedes any information you may see elsewhere, to include what may appear in this ORC/Catalog or on a department/program website. Note that course attributes may change term to term therefore those in effect are those (only) during the term in which you enroll in the course.

Department-Specific Course Categories

Junior Colloquium: Course Group II