Faculty of Arts


Modernism and the Contemporary


This course investigates the idea of space, particularly city space, in modernist culture and literary production. We will focus on European and US cities but also consider how New Zealand cities responded to the idea of the modern during the interwar period. How is the metropolis negotiated in fiction, art and film? In what ways do the city, and the relationship between urban and rural space, influence modernist artistic techniques? We will see how the inner spaces of the mind are mapped in response to the exteriors of the great cities of modernism; we will explore settings haunted by the past or dreaming of technological transformation. Our investigation will lead us to new understandings of modernism within the context of early twentieth century urban cultures, including Auckland's.

On completion of this course, students should have

  • developed their discipline-specific knowledge of modernism, fictional and visual representation, and narrative techniques;
  • developed a more general  understanding of twentieth century approaches to space as viewed by modern writers, sociologists, geographers and architects;
  • conducted post-graduate level research both independently and with others;
  • learned to think critically about the relationship between literary texts and other forms of cultural expression;
  • presented their research orally and in writing.

Availability 2019

Not offered in 2019; planned for 2020


Coordinator(s) Professor Erin Carlston


  • James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916)
  • Jean Toomer, Cane (1923)
  • Virginia Woolf, Mrs Dalloway (1925)
  • Fritz Lang (dir.), “Metropolis” (1927)
  • Nella Larsen, Passing (1929)
  • Henry Roth, Call It Sleep (1934)
  • Djuna Barnes, Nightwood (1936)

Recommended Reading

  • Le Corbusier, Toward an Architecture (1923)
  • Hugh Ferriss, The Metropolis of Tomorrow (1929)


ENGLISH 705: 30.0 points

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