Tuesday 30 July 2013

Reading list for ENGL33052 Improper Modernism: Samuel Beckett and Djuna Barnes

Improper Modernism: Samuel Beckett and Djuna Barnes


The unit will study the oeuvres of Samuel Beckett (1906-1989) and Djuna Barnes (1892-1982). Beckett has been read as a ‘late modernist’ (Miller, 1999) and Barnes as a ‘bad modernist’ (Mao and Walkowitz, 2006), because of their close connections with modernist linguistic experimentalism and their critique of what by the 1930s were perceived to be modernist dogmas. After a few introductory sessions on modernism (with a focus on some high modernists), the course will analyse in close detail a select number of texts by both authors and link them to wider critical debates around cultural and aesthetic value, authority, intertextuality, and periodization in the twentieth century.


The module’s aim is twofold; on the one hand, it wants to familiarise students with the complex work of a major twentieth-century literary author – Samuel Beckett – and a less known one – Djuna Barnes. On the other hand, the module wants to use Beckett and Barnes as case studies to engage in a number of debates about modern aesthetics and epistemology, literary history and periodization, and questions of literary value and complexity in the twentieth century.


The course will be based on the close analysis of the primary texts and related criticism, emphasising how the complexity of the material at hand can help us to rethink some key literary and critical questions in the twentieth-century, such as cultural value, authority, intertextuality, and periodization.




Primary Texts

Please buy the editions specified here


Samuel Beckett

·       Murphy, ed. J.C.C. Mays (London: Faber and Faber, 2009)

·       Molloy, ed. Shane Weller (London: Faber and Faber, 2009)

·       Texts for Nothing and Other Shorter Prose, 1950–1976, ed. Mark Nixon (London: Faber and Faber, 2010)

·       The Complete Dramatic Work by Samuel Beckett (London: Faber and Faber, 1998). Focus on Endgame and Play.


Djuna Barnes

·      Collected Stories (Los Angeles: Sun and Moon Press, 1997).*

·      Ryder, with an Afterword by Paul West (Normal, IL: The Dalkey Archive Press, 1995 [1928]).

·      Nightwood, New Introduction by Jeanette Winterson, with a Preface by T.S. Eliot (London: Faber and Faber, 2007 [1936]).

·      Selected Works of Djuna Barnes. Spillway / The Antiphon / Nightwood (London: Faber and Faber, 1998 [1962]) OR The Antiphon (Saint Paul, MN: Green Integer, 2003).*


* Please note, if you buy Selected Works you do NOT need to buy the Collected Stories (ie it may well work out cheaper)



Key Seconday Texts

·      Nicholls, Peter, Modernisms: A Literary Guide (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1995).

·      Kolocotroni, Vassiliki, Jane Goldman and Olga Taxidou (eds), Modernism: An Anthology of Sources and Documents (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1998).

·      Miller, Tyrus, Late Modernism: Politics, Fiction, and the Arts Between the Worlds Wars (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999).

·      Douglas Mao and Rebecca L. Walkowitz, Bad Modernisms (Durham, NC and London: Duke University Press, 2006).

·      Cohn, Ruby, A Beckett Canon (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 2002).

·      Caselli, Daniela, Improper Modernism: Djuna Barnes’s Bewildering Corpus (Burlington: Ashgate, 2009).


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