Foto: Matthias Friel
The course introduces into a period of crucial transition in Britain from the early 20th to the 21st century, a century of immense, thorough social, political, cultural changes, challenges and threats. We will focus on social, cultural and literary phenomena and follow up some major developments throughout the 20th century. Modernism, World War I/II, Cold War are only a few keywords that relate to this course project and find repercussions in a wide range of partly controversial experimental and avantgarde trends in arts (incl. literature). In literature, this primarily relates to a rejection of 19th-century traditions and conventions and a termination of the previous consensus between author and reader in traditional realism. Modernists, then, regarded themselves as a cosmopolitan avantgarde subverting bourgeois values. This subversion was expressed both in complex formal experiment and in provocative subject matter such as urban cultural dislocation. The realism-based continuity of chronological development was challenged; new ways of tracing the flow of characters' thoughts found expression in the stream-of-consciousness technique. Complex collages of fragmentary images substituted allusions to logical, teleological exposition of thoughts and can be read as repercussions of the writers' alert awareness of new anthropological and psychological theories. The trauma of World War I and II and the Holocaust as well as the Cold War left repercussions in the arts too, for sure and certainly contributed to the development of postmodernist aesthetics. During the course, we will problematise aspects of these transitions. We will look (a) into concepts of modernism/postmodernism and (b) investigate into innovative (post)modernist aesthetic impulses in canonical and noncanonical texts/writers. Changing gender concepts as well as aspects of representations of the British Empire will be of reoccuring interest.
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