English 190

Research Seminar: Do I Dare? Indecision and Modernist Literature

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
10 Fall 2016 Blevins, Jeffrey

TTh 3:30-5 C57 Hearst Annex British 20th- and 21st-Century
American Literature
Literary Theory
Research Seminars

Book List

Barnes, Djuna: Nightwood; Barth, John: The End of the Road; Ellison, Ralph: Invisible Man; Ford, Ford Madox: The Good Soldier; James, Henry: The Golden Bowl; Woolf, Virginia: To the Lighthouse

Other Readings and Media

A reader that may contain short pieces by Simone de Beauvoir, Samuel Beckett, W.E.B. Du Bois, Cleanth Brooks, Kenneth Burke, E.E. Cummings, T.S. Eliot, Robert Frost, James Joyce, Alain Locke, Marianne Moore, John Crowe Ransom, I.A. Richards, Bertrand Russell, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone Weil, Edith Wharton, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and others.

Please note that the book list and and the contents of the reader were revised on April 18.


From Prufrock's peach to Frost's two roads, modernism gave us many famous moments of indecision. We will follow along with texts depicting speakers and characters as they hesitate, delay, cavil, evade, hedge, sidestep, prevaricate, tergiversate, equivocate, and otherwise wring their hands over even the most inconsequential choices. Their protracted deliberations foreground states of uncertainty and feelings of doubt, which we will investigate by closely reading the ambiguous and often paradoxical language that constrains and displays them. These uncertainties and doubts will provide openings for discussions of how texts present the situations that elicit indecision in the first place: temerity, alienation, physical peril, disaffection, ethical vagueness, mental exhaustion, circumstantial complexity, and so on. At the same time, we will see how indecision provokes fantasies about other outcomes and speculations on alternative possibilities, which become microcosms for the broader imaginative procedures behind literary world-building.

In tandem we will consider contemporaneous essays on the role of ambiguity and paradox in literature, and we will study how the early history of literary criticism dramatized its own indecisiveness over just how to read and evaluate (modernist) texts. We will also touch on broader philosophies of decision, judgment, choice, will, and selfhood.

Please read the paragraph about English 190 on page 2 of the instructions area of this Announcement of Classes for more details about enrolling in or wait-listing for this course.

Other Recent Sections of This Course

Spring, 2017
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
190/1 Research Seminar: The Urban Postcolonial Ellis, Nadia

190/2 Research Seminar: Harlem Renaissance Wagner, Bryan

190/3 Research Seminar: Literature and the Linguistic Turn Blevins, Jeffrey

190/4 Research Seminar: Jane Austen and the Theory of the Novel Miller, D.A.

190/5 Research Seminar: Writing a World in Crisis: Medieval and Modern Perry, R. D.

190/6 Research Seminar: Shakespeare: From the Globe to the Global Bahr, Stephanie M

190/7 Research Seminar: Place-Love: Fiction and the Melancholy of Form Xin, Wendy Veronica

190/8 Research Seminar: Literatures of the Ocean Sorensen, Janet

190/9 Research Seminar: <em>Beowulf</em> Thornbury, Emily V.

190/10 Research Seminar: Hollywood in the 1930s Knapp, Jeffrey

190/11 Research Seminar: The Literature of Immortality Jones, Donna V.

190/13 Research Seminar: California Literature & Film Since WWI Starr, George A.

Fall, 2016
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
190/1 Research Seminar: Emily Dickinson Shoptaw, John

190/2 Research Seminar: Slow Seeing / Slow Reading Hejinian, Lyn

190/3 Research Seminar: Moby-Dick, and More Otter, Samuel

190/4 Research Seminar: U.S. Modernism Goble, Mark

190/5 Research Seminar: Alfred Hitchcock Bader, Julia

190/6 Research Seminar: The Medium Is the Message: Reading Poetry in Manuscript & Print, 1300-1600 Bahr, Stephanie M

190/7 Research Seminar: Note new topic: Troy and Tragedy Perry, R. D.

190/8 Research Seminar: James / Baldwin Best, Stephen M.

190/9 Research Seminar: On Style Xin, Wendy Veronica

190/11 Research Seminar: Modern California Literature and Film Starr, George A.

190/12 Research Seminar: Modern Utopian and Dystopian Literature and Film Starr, George A.

Spring, 2016
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
190/1 Research Seminar: The Sixties Goble, Mark

190/2 Research Seminar: Through a Future Darkly: Global Crisis and the Triumph of Dystopia Danner, Mark

190/3 Research Seminar: Late Henry James Breitwieser, Mitchell

190/4 Research Seminar: The Urban Postcolonial Ellis, Nadia

190/5 Research Seminar: Contemporary British Literature and Culture Falci, Eric

190/6 Research Seminar: Classical and Renaissance Drama Knapp, Jeffrey

190/7 Research Seminar: Materiality: How the Physical World Is Made to Mean Flynn, Catherine

190/8 Research Seminar: Vital Texts: Literature and the Discourse of Life Gaydos, Rebecca

190/9 Research Seminar: Medieval and Renaissance Lyric Crosson, Chad Gregory

190/10 Research Seminar: Purcell and Handel: Their Art in Setting English Texts to Music Hanson, Kristin

190/11 Research Seminar Lee, Steven S.

190/12 Research Seminar: Daniel Defoe and the Rise of the 18th-Century Novel Starr, George A.

190/13 Research Seminar: Keats and Literary Tradition Francois, Anne-Lise

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