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English 322: Modernism

Section 01W, Fall 2016

3 Credits / 3 Hours

Tues. and Thurs., 11:00am-12:15pm

Welcome to ENG 322: Modernism.  The course description is as follows:

Readings in major Modernist writers from Britain, the U.S., Ireland, and Europe, with attention to social, cultural, and political contexts, and to enduring legacies in literature and other realms.

The Modernist movement, which lasted from approximately 1890 to 1950, is one of the richest and most challenging in the history of literature.

In the face of declining faith in traditional religious and cultural values, as technology accelerated at a rapid rate and World War I demonstrated the potential devastation of modern machinery, and as minority writers worked to achieve unprecedented exposure in magazines and at publishing houses, these authors abandoned old value systems and attempted to create their own meaning through innovative styles.  Modernist writers questioned the building blocks of form, writing novels without conventional plots, poems without conventional structures, and plays without conventional action.

Though Modernist literature can prove difficult at first, as we are required to adjust our regular approaches to reading, it can also be immensely rewarding once we are able to connect with the dense psychological, emotional, and political truths these authors are dealing with.

It is with great pleasure that I look forward to reading and analyzing these texts with you.

Course Goals and Objectives

  • Develop a critical appreciation of major Modernist authors

  • Assess these authors and their works in light of dominant historical and cultural trends, including a decline in traditional values, the emancipation of women, the devastation of World War I, and the fall of the Empire project

  • Hone skills of close reading, literary analysis, and critical argumentation

Required Materials

All books are available at the Lehman College Bookstore.

  • Ford Madox Ford, The Good Soldier. ISBN-13: 978-0199585946

  • Nella Larsen, Passing. ISBN-13: 978-0142437278

  • Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway. ISBN-13: 978-0156628709

  • Rebecca West, The Return of the Soldier. ISBN-13: 978-0141180656

  • E.M. Forster, A Passage to India. ISBN-13: 978-0156711425

Recommended Materials

  • Purdue University Online Writing Lab (MLA Style Guide):

  • MLA International Bibliography:

  • Google Scholar:

  • William Strunk and E.B. White, The Elements of Style (Fourth Edition). ISBN-13: 978-0205309023


You may bring laptops in order to take notes but no cell phones, headphones, or portable music players.

Attendance and Punctuality

Attendance is mandatory.  Only three absences and three times arriving late (more than ten minutes) will be excused.  Each additional unexcused absence will result in half a letter grade dropped. (Two lates equal one unexcused absence).  Six unexcused absences will result in a failing grade.  If you know you will be late or absent, please email me.

Policy on Plagiarism

You must do your own work and be sure to cite sources for any ideas, words and phrases, or thought that are not your own and not common knowledge.  Plagiarism often occurs because students do not allow enough time to complete their assignments or because they feel their work will not be good enough.  If you are having trouble finishing an assignment by the due date, please speak with me instead of cheating.  And in this class, if you challenge yourself and make a solid effort, you will be fine: your own work is good enough.  If you turn in work that is not your own, you will fail the assignment and possibly the entire course.  All instances of plagiarism will be reported to the English Department Chair and Office of Student Affairs.  Note that college penalties for this can be as severe as expulsion from the college.  Please use common sense and if you are ever in doubt, ask me first and before your assignment is due.

CUNY defines plagiarism as follows:

Plagiarism is the act of presenting another person’s ideas, research or writings as your own.  The following are some examples of plagiarism, but by no means is it an exhaustive list:

Copying another person’s actual words without the use of quotation marks and footnotes attributing the words to their sourcePresenting another person’s ideas or theories in your own words without acknowledging the sourceUsing information that is not common knowledge without acknowledging the sourceFailing to acknowledge collaborators on homework and laboratory assignments

Internet plagiarism includes submitting downloaded term papers or parts of term papers, paraphrasing or copying information from the internet without citing the source, and “cutting & pasting” from various sources without proper attribution.


Assignments must be emailed to by 11:59pm on the day on which they are due.  Assignments not handed in at all will be given failing grades.  Talk to me if you are having a serious problem completing the work, and we will work out a plan that is agreeable to us both.  Incomplete or late assignments will lose half a letter grade per day.  This means that if you submit an A essay that is due on Monday on Wednesday, you will receive a B.

In-Class Writing: 15 points

Essays: 20 points each (60 points total)

Participation: 25 points

Total: 100 points

Grading Scale: 94-100 = A; 90-93 = A-; 87-89 = B+; 83-86 = B; 80-82 = B-; 77-79 = C+; 73-76 = C

Classroom Participation

This is a discussion-based course, not a lecture-based one.  Participation is very important and includes completing the assigned readings, turning your essays in on time, and being prepared to speak thoughtfully on whatever reading(s) we are discussing for the day.  There will also be no toleration of deliberately racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, or ableist language.  I use the word deliberately because we all have gaps in knowledge and experience and part of the purpose of a college education is assisting each other in filling in those gaps.  Therefore, I encourage respectful debate when your peers or I have said something that is hurtful, insensitive, or ignorant.


In-Class Writing: About once every other week, we will begin class with a short writing assignment about our reading for the day.  The standing prompt will be, “What is the author’s thesis?”  Alternately, you may be asked to outline a theme that seems particularly important to the work.

Close Reading Essays: Three times this semester, at the end of each course section, you will be required to write a 1250-word close reading essay on that section’s theme or on a text assigned during that section.  Details on each assignment, including prompts, will be handed out two weeks prior to each essay’s due date.  You will turn in first and final drafts, but you are welcome to submit multiple drafts for comments before each assignment is due.

Alternate Assignment: Once during the semester, instead of writing a close reading essay, you may write an original Wikipedia article about a figure in the Modernist movement who has not received much attention.  You must use MLA citations and appropriate research methods.  A list of figures will be handed out in October.  This article must run at least 1000 words.

Accommodating Disabilities

Lehman College is committed to providing access to all programs and curricula to all students.  Students with disabilities who may need classroom accommodations are encouraged to register with the Office of Student Disability Services.  For more information, please contact the Office of Student Disability Services, Shuster Hall, Room 238, phone number (718) 960-8441.

Title IX

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 protects individuals from discrimination based on sex in any educational program receiving federal financial assistance.  Sexual harassment, which includes acts of sexual violence, is a form of sex discrimination prohibited by Title IX, and is considered a Civil Rights offense.  Lehman College encourages anyone experiencing harassment, discrimination or sexual misconduct to talk to a faculty member, counselor, or staff; confidential resources are available through the Lehman Counseling Center at (718) 960-8761.

Classmate Contacts


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Reading and Assignment Schedule

Introduction: A Decline in Traditional Values

Tuesday, 8/30: Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot (1953); reviews in The Times (1955) and The New York Times (1956)

Thursday, 9/1: Beckett, Waiting for Godot (cont’d); Martin Esslin, from The Theatre of the Absurd (1961)

Tuesday, 9/6: Ford Madox Ford, The Good Soldier (1915)

Thursday, 9/8: Ford, The Good Soldier (cont’d); excerpt from the Evening Telegraph (1913)

Tuesday, 9/13: Ford, The Good Soldier (cont’d); review in the Boston Transcript (1915)

Thursday, 9/15: Ford, The Good Soldier (cont’d); Anita Barr Snitow, “The Tragedy of Desire” (1984)

Section One: The Enfranchisement of Women

Tuesday, 9/20: Nella Larsen, Passing (1928)

Thursday, 9/22: Larsen, Passing (cont’d); Don Pierson, “Does It Pay to ‘Pass?’” (1925)

Sunday, 9/25: First Essay Draft Due

Tuesday, 9/27: Larsen, Passing (cont’d); anonymous editorials on the Rhinelander Case from The Crisis, The Chicago Defender, and The New York Times (1926)

Thursday, 9/29: Larsen, Passing (cont’d); Cherene Sherrard-Johnson, from Portraits of the New Negro Woman: Visual and Literary Culture in the Harlem Renaissance (2007)

Sunday, 10/2: First Essay Final Draft Due

Tuesday, 10/4: No Classes Scheduled (Rosh Hashanah)

Thursday, 10/6: Classes Follow a Monday Schedule

Tuesday, 10/11: No Classes Scheduled (Yom Kippur)

Thursday, 10/13: Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway (1925)

Friday, 10/14: Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway (cont’d); Mina Loy, “A Feminist Manifesto” (1914) (Classes Follow a Tuesday Schedule)

Tuesday, 10/18: Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway (cont’d); Dorothy Richardson, “The Reality of Feminism” (1917)

Thursday, 10/20: Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway (cont’d); James Wood, “Virginia Woolf’s Forgetful Selves” (2000)

Section Two: The Devastation of World War I

Tuesday, 10/25: Rebecca West, The Return of the Soldier (1918)

Thursday, 10/27: West, The Return of the Soldier (cont’d); Rupert Brooke, “The Soldier” (1915); Wilfred Owen, “Dulce Et Decorum Est” (1920)

Sunday, 10/30: Second Essay Draft Due

Tuesday, 11/1: West, The Return of the Soldier (cont’d); Siegfried Sassoon, “They” (1917); Isaac Rosenberg, “Dead Man’s Dump” (1922)

Thursday, 11/3: West, The Return of the Soldier (cont’d); Paul Fussell, from The Great War and Modern Memory (1975)

Sunday, 11/6: Second Essay Final Draft Due

Tuesday, 11/8: T.S. Eliot, “The Waste Land” (1922)

Thursday, 11/10: Eliot, “The Waste Land” (cont’d); Eliot, “The Hollow Men” (1925); Eliot, “Gerontion” (1920)

Section Three: The Fall of the Empire Project

Tuesday, 11/15: Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness (1899); Rudyard Kipling, “The White Man’s Burden” (1899)

Thursday, 11/17: Conrad, Heart of Darkness (cont’d); Edward Wilmont Blyden, from The Aims and Methods of a Liberal Education for Africans (1882)

Sunday, 11/20: Third Essay Draft Due

Tuesday, 11/22: Conrad, Heart of Darkness (cont’d); Chinua Achebe, “An Image of Africa” (1975)

Thursday, 11/24: No Classes Scheduled (Thanksgiving)

Sunday, 11/27: Third Essay Final Draft Due

Tuesday, 11/29: E.M. Forster, A Passage to India (1924); Alfred Tennyson, “Opening of the Indian and Colonial Exhibition by the Queen” (1886)

Thursday, 12/1: Forster, A Passage to India (cont’d); John Ruskin, Conclusion to Inaugural Lecture (1870); Joseph Chamberlain, “The True Conception of Empire” (1897)

Tuesday, 12/6: Forster, A Passage to India (cont’d); Sri Aurobindo, “The Object of Passive Resistance” (1907)

Thursday, 12/8: Forster, A Passage to India (cont’d); Edward Said, from Orientalism (1978)