Writing and/in Crisis in Literature and the Arts - Université Bordeaux Montaigne

Writing and/in Crisis in Literature and the Arts

Crédits ECTS : 6.0

Volume horaire CM : 12.0

Volume horaire TD : 12.0

Code ELP : MIA2Y29

Composante : UFR Langues et Civilisations

Période de l'année : Printemps

Formes d'enseignement : Non accessible à distance


This seminar is about literary and artistic production during the Modernist era seen as a period of crisis (from the Greek krisis meaning “decision”), that is both a moment of rupture and a critical moment in the field of art and literature after the First World War. It was also the moment when modernity began with the development of science and technology, the advent of psychoanalysis (the discovery of the unconscious) and the boom of the consumer society during the American Prosperity. D. H. Lawrence thus wrote: “It was in 1915 the old world ended.” Not everybody agrees on the date. But it does not really matter. No doubt, after the First World War, as artists were confronted with an unstable world and an uncertain, if not inaccessible, reality, they felt the need to free themselves from traditional art forms and created new modes of expression and representation—hence Picasso’s Cubism, Bartok’s and Stravinsky’s music, Diaghilev’s Russian ballet and on the European literary scene: Virginia Woolf, James Joyce and D. H. Lawrence in Great Britain; Marcel Proust and André Gide in France, to quote only a few writers among the most famous.

In America this new literary “modernity” will be examined in the field of fiction through works like Dos Passos’s 1919 (1932), Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises (1926), and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night (1934). Each novel will be an opportunity to study the tension between satiric representation and formal experimentation, that is, as Michael Levenson put it, the “creative violence” characteristic of Modernism.

The second part of the seminar will be devoted to British Modernism, which will be studied through the lens of gender, both as a literary and artistic category, and as a culturally constructed divide. We will see how women activists like the Suffragettes and writers like Dorothy Richardson or Virginia Woolf contributed to this moment crisis, and how the notions of masculinity and femininity were questioned by the figures of the “New Woman” and of the androgyne. Indeed this questioning of sexual norms is reflected in the unconventionality of literary genres and in the fluidity of boundaries separating them.


Primary sources

American Modernism
DOS PASSOS, John. 1919. 1932. Boston: Mariner Books, 2000.
HEMINGWAY, Ernest. The Sun Also Rises. 1926. London: Arrow Books, 2004.
FITZGERALD, Francis Scott. Tender Is the Night. 1934. London: Penguin Classics, New Ed (28 juin 2001). ISBN-10: 9780141183596. ISBN-13: 978-0141183596 (do not buy the edition with the green cover as it is an inappropriate version of the novel)
N.B. The books will be studied in the order indicated above. Students are requested to come to the first lesson with their copy of 1919 and, of course, to have finished reading the book.

British Modernism
BECKETT, Samuel. “Enough” (1965), in Collected Complete Short Prose, 1929-1989. New York: Grove Press, 1995.
-----, Come and Go (1966), in Collected Shorter Plays. London, Faber, 1984.
JOYCE, James, Dubliners (1914).
------- “Penelope”, in Ulysses (1922).
MANSFIELD, Katherine, The Garden Party and Other Stories (1922)
WOOLF, Virginia, Mrs Dalloway (1925)
----- A Room of One’s Own (1929)
-----Orlando (1928)

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