Class Time: 12:30 pm
Think of anything, of cowboys, of movies, of detective stories, of anybody who goes anywhere or stays at home and is an American and you will realize that it is something strictly American to conceive a space that is filled with moving, space of time that is filled always filled with moving.
Gertrude Stein, Gertrude Stein’s America, 95.
In this graduate class, we will approach American modernism through the critical lens of mobility studies, which (in part) considers the form and significance of movement technologies as they contribute to the meaning of literary texts. The turn of the twentieth century saw a dramatic increase in circulation at every scale, from transnational migration by ocean liner and internal migration by railroad to joyriding in a Model T Ford. We will examine American literature from this period that grapples with vehicular mobility, different kinds of migration and tourism, as well as the movement of media and information. Some questions we might ask include how does mobility work differently depending on the identity of the body in motion? How is mobility associated with national identity, as it is in Stein’s “something strictly American”? How do networks of circulation put modern subjects in danger, and how do they allow them to flee danger? What are the feelings and emotions associated with new kinds of movement, and how do they translate into experiments with literary form?
Assignments will include: leading discussion for one class period; visiting the Jule Collins Smith Museum and writing a short essay about a painting in their collection; reflection posts; a conference paper (6-8 pages); and a longer, researched writing project dealing with the themes of the class.
Primary texts will likely include: Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth; selected poetry of William Carlos Williams; Osip Dymov, The Melting Pot; the silent film Traffic in Souls; Jean Toomer, Cane; Mae West, Sex; Muriel Rukeyser, Book of the Dead; Nathanael West, The Day of the Locust; and Jacob Lawrence’s painting cycle The Migration Series.
Secondary readings will be drawn from: Wolfgang Schievelbusch, The Railway Journey; Cecelia Tichi, Shifting Gears; Cotton Seiler, Republic of Drivers; Jayna Brown, Babylon Girls; Enda Duffy, The Speed Handbook; Miriam Thaggert, Riding Jane Crow; The Edinburgh Companion to Modernism and Technology, and Robert Volpicelli, Transatlantic Modernism and the U.S. Lecture Tour.