Faculty of Arts


Modernism and the Contemporary


In this course we will consider the ways in which works of fiction converse with and respond to one another. To this end, we will divide our readings into distinct units, each beginning with a canonical work of early twentieth century modernism, like Joseph Conrad’s novel The Secret Agent and Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway. Then we will proceed to examine how this modernist work’s narrative, characters, formal techniques and/or themes have been transposed in contemporary iterations. We’ll observe contrasts and connections across these narratives, operating under the presumption that the juxtaposition of one work with another will illuminate aspects of each that might not be obvious when they are considered separately.

On completion of this course, students should have:

  • Developed their discipline-specific knowledge of modernism and postmodernism, fictional and visual representation and narrative techniques
  • Developed a more general  understanding of critical approaches to modernism and postmodernism
  • Conducted postgraduate level research both independently and with others
  • Learned to think critically about the connections among twentieth and twenty-first century literary texts, genres and movements
  • Presented their research orally and in writing


Coursework only

Availability 2021

Not offered in 2021; planned for 2022


Coordinator(s) Professor Erin Carlston


Assigned readings may inlcude:

  • 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

Assigned reading may include:

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


ENGLISH 705: 30.0 points

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