Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
The Politics of Modernism
Academic Year
Intended for use in future years

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Seminars / Tutorials 20 Hours. Seminar. 10 x 2 hrs


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment 2 x 3000 word essays  Continuous Assessment:  100%
Supplementary Assessment Resubmit or resit failed elements and/or make good any missing elements 

Learning Outcomes

At the end of the module, students will be able to:

1. describe and appraise the main theories of and debates within modernism;

2. relate theories and practices of modernism to set texts;

3. describe the broad effects of modernist devices on literary and cultural forms;

4. apply examples from the arguments of principal exponents of modernist theory;

5. comment critically on the material chosen for study;

6. engage in coherent oral discussion of the texts and background material;

7. write about the subject in a well-structured and argued manner.


The principal aim of this module will be to familiarise students with the variety of debates centring upon the problematic of modernism, but in particular, to consider whether one can perceive and describe the political ideologies underpinning the various aesthetics of modernism.

Brief description

By focusing on a selection of texts from the 'high' modernist canon, the following issues might be explored:

  • what were the relations between the aesthetic ideologies of modernism and its emergence within a specific historical and social formation?
  • whether modernist aesthetics were a radical break with conventional forms of knowledge, or whether they were merely a search for a new realism;
  • why the issue of representation and language becomes so crucial to artists during this period;
  • why modernist art is 'difficult';
  • why certain writers have been excluded from the 'canon';
  • the role of the avant-garde;
  • the way in which modern art has been gendered;
  • the definitions and distinctions between modernism and postmodernism evident in the work of such theorists as Luckacs, Adorno, Brecht, Benjamin, Jameson and Lyotard.



1. Introduction: What is the Modern?
2. Aestheticism and Myth: Yeats,
W B Yeats - "The Tower"; "The Winding Stair"; "A Vision" (extracts)
3. Culture and Hegemony: Eliot
T S Eliot "The Waste Land"; "Tradition and the Individual Talent"; "Four Quartets"
4. Language and Gender: Woolf
Virginia Woolf "The Waves"
5. Location and Dislocation: Joyce (I)
James Joyce "Ulysses" (1)
6. Proteiform Graph: Joyce (II,
James Joyce - "Ulysses" (2), "Finnegans Wake" (extracts)
7. Image and Object: Pound and H.D.
Ezra Pound - "Hugh Selwyn Mauberley"; "The Cantos"; H.D. "Trilogy"
8. Complicated Simplicity: Stein
Gertrude Stein - "Tender Buttons"; "The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas"
9. Poems of the Mind: Stevens
Wallace Stevens "Harmonium"; "Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction"
10. The Ends of Modernism: Beckett
Samuel Beckett - "Endgame"


The Hugh Owen Library is well stocked with texts in this field and on these authors, and is extremely well supplemented by the texts in the National Library. A short indicative bibliography is listed below, but specific bibliographies on the module subjects will be handed out on a weekly basis.


This module is at CQFW Level 6