Upper-Division Seminar: Modernism: Aesthetics, Culture and Sexual Politics

Course Number: ENGL 197
Prerequisites: Upper-division standing, English majors only
Advisory Enrollment Information: This course cannot be repeated and is limited to upper-division English majors only.
Catalog Course Entry: ENGL 197
Quarter: Spring 2011
Instructor: Boscagli, Maurizia
Day(s): TR
Time: 3:30 PM - 4:45 PM
Location: SH 2617
Description:

This course cannot be repeated and is limited to upper-division English majors only.
This course studies the aesthetics and sexual politics of modernism in its historical-cultural context in the years 1900-1930. During this time modern culture is characterized by the advancement of technology, massified metropolitan life and consumerism; the Taylorization of labor and various forms of regimentation of social life; the entrance of women into the public sphere, as well as by new discourses and practices of sexual freedom (and the visibility of homosexualities). Early twentieth century modernity also witnesses a crisi of the liberal polity and the bourgeois self, and an often virulent discourse of nationalism vis-à-vis war and the disillusionment with the empire. We will study the aesthetic production of modernism (in literature, film, and photography) as deeply ingrained in this culture of modernity, and as responding to (and simultaneously producing) anxieties about the social order, gender definitions and class stability. What is the cultural politics of modernism and how did different modernisms come to speak different languages of political commitment? How did the modernist experimentation produce a crisis of realistic representation? How does an aesthetics of obscurity and fragmentation (concerned with questions of tradition and order and the dangers of the technologization and standardization of modern life, as well as with a “machinic” art of defamiliarization alienation, and functionalism—Brecht, the Bauhaus) contribute to the division of high and low, and to the split between mass and popular culture? While studying how the relation between modernism and modernity is articulated in the thought of cultural and social critics of the period (Benjamin, Adorno, Ortega y Gassett, Le Bon) we will focus on different sites of modernity: the New Man, the modernist femme fatale and femme flaneur (as in Jean Rhys’ novels); the international city and the modernist between community and homelessness; the question of the primitive (in the Imperial Exhibitions and in Josephjne Baker’s shows); Taylorization and gender (Fritz Lang’s film Metropolis); the Spectacle of modernity; the lesbian and fashion (Gabrielle Chanel dressing the androgynous New Woman) and Paul Poiret staging orientalism through his clothes; ornament and minimalism.

Texts by Barnes, Rhys, Woolf, Joyce, Benjamin, Krakauer, Adorno, Simmel, Loos; Andreas Huyssen, Terry Eagleton, Frederic Jameson, Linda Williams, Susan Buck-Morss, Peter Wollen, Thomas Elsaesser, Patrice Petro and Judith Butler.