HUMS 637
American Modernisms

Sean McCann

American Modernisms




·        A 10-15 page research paper on a work or works by an American modernist writer or writers, due at the end of the semester (45% of final grade);

·        Three 3-4 page response papers (45% of final grade); choose any three dates.

·        All papers to be submitted to the digital drop box, under “Tools” on the course blackboard, or by e-mail.

·        Class participation (10% of final grade).   




Sherwood Anderson, Winesburg, Ohio

Djuna Barnes, Nightwood

Willa Cather, The Professor’s House

John Dos Passos, The Big Money

T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land, ed. Michael North (Norton)

William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying

Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises

Mary McCarthy, The Company She Keeps

Gertrude Stein, Three Lives

Jean Toomer, Cane

Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence

William Carlos Williams, Spring and All, in Imaginations

Recommended supplemental readings available via Olin standard and electronic reserve (r) and distributed in class



9/10     Wharton, The Age of Innocence


9/17     Glaspell, “Trifles” (r)

Anderson, Winesburg, Ohio



Robert Frost, “Out, Out . . .”; “Mending Wall”

Carl Sandburg, “Chicago”

E. A. Robinson, “Miniver Cheevy”

Ezra Pound, “The Rest,” “Portait d’une Femme”


Christine Stansell, “Art and Life: Modernity and Literary Sensibilities,” American Moderns: Bohemian New York and the Creation of a New Century


9/24     Stein, Three Lives



Ann Douglas, “The Culture of Momentum,” “The ‘Dark Legend” of Matricide,” Terrible Honesty: Mongrel Manhattan in the Twenties (r)

Michael North, “Modernism’s African Mask: The Stein-Picasso Collaboration,” The Dialect of Modernism (r)


10/1   T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land

from “Tradition and the Individual Talent,” The Waste Land, Norton Critical Ed’n, ed. Michael North

from “Ulysses, Order, and Myth,” The Waste Land, Norton Critical Ed’n.

recommended, any of the following:

Louis Menand, “Literature and Professionalism,” Discovering Modernism: T. S. Eliot and his Context (r)

Michael Tratner, “Mass Minds and Modernist Forms: Political, Aesthetic, and Psychological Theories,” Modernism and Mass Politics: Joyce, Woolf, Eliot, Yeats  (r)

Kenneth Asher, “Historical Background,” T. S. Eliot and Ideology (r)

Grover Smith, “The Structure and Mythical Method of The Waste Land,” The Waste Land: Modern Critical Interpretations, ed. Harold Bloom (r)

Any and all of: Cleanth Brooks, Denis Donahue, A. D. Moody, Bush, Maud Ellman, all in Norton Critical Ed’n


10/8     Cather, The Professor’s House

Cather, “The Novel Demeublé” (r)



David Hollinger, “The Knower and the Artificer,”  Modernist Impulses in the Human Sciences, ed. Dorothy Ross (r)

Walter Benn Michaels, “The Vanishing American” (r)


10/15   Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises



Hugh Kenner, “Small Ritual Truths,” A Homemade World: The American Modernist Writers (r)

Nicholas Daly, “Across the Great Divide: Modernism, Popular Fiction, and the Primitive,” Modernism, Romance and the Fin de Siècle : Popular Fiction and British Culture, 1880-1914 (r)


10/22  Williams, Spring and All


Recommended, any of the following:

Williams, “The Founding of Quebec,” “Père Sebastian Rasles,” In the American Grain (r)


Marianne Moore, “Poetry” (long version)

Wallace Stevens, “Sunday Morning”; “The Snow Man”; “The Emperor of Ice Cream”; “A High-toned Old Christian Woman”; “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird”


Albert Gelpi, “The Janus-Face of Romanticism and Modernism,” A Coherent Splendor: The American Poetic Renaissance, 1910-1950

Sanford Schwartz, “’This Invented World’”: Abstraction and Experience at the Turn of the Century,” The Matrix of Modernism (r)

Miles Orvell, Introduction to Part III, The Real Thing: Imitation and Authenticity in American Culture, 1880-1940, 141-156 (r)


10/29   Toomer, Cane

Langston Hughes, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers”; “Negro”; “Afro-American Fragment”; “The Weary Blues”; “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain”



Barbara Foley, “‘In the Land of Cotton’: Economics and Violence in Jean Toomer’s Cane,” African American Review 32.2 (Summer 1998)


11/5  Faulkner, As I Lay Dying



Pells, “Literary Theory and the Role of the Intellectual,” Radical Visions and American Dreams: Culture and Social Thought in the Depression Years (r)


11/12   Dos Passos, The Big Money


Michael Denning, “The Decline and Fall of the Lincoln Republic: Dos Passos’ U. S. A.,” The Cultural Front: The Laboring of American Culture in the Twentieth Century (r)


11/19  Barnes, Nightwood



Shari Benstock, “Djuna Barnes: Rue St. Romain,” Women of the Left Bank (r)


12/3  McCarthy, The Company She Keeps



Alan Wald, “Introduction: Political Amnesia” and “Radical Modernists: In Defense of Literature,” The New York Intellectuals: The Rise and Decline of the Anti-Stalinist Left from the 1930s to the 1980s (r)


12/15  final paper due