Modernism and Race
This course will consider the ways in which high modernism, which appeared in the interwar period, was shaped by the Victorian and Edwardian obsession over “racial hygiene,” as articulated by biologists, anthropologists, and philologists promoting degeneration theory, eugenics, and scientific racism. In this course, we will read modernist works alongside critical texts to examine both the embrace and rejection of racial theories in modernist literature. Readings will include T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land and his unfinished “blackface” play Effie the Waif; sections from Ezra Pound’s The Pisan Cantos and Guide to Kulchur; excerpts from James Joyce’s novels and his essays on the Irish race; Djuna Barnes’s Nightwood; Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse; and Samuel Beckett’s Endgame, alongside the anti-racist and anti-colonial texts that he translated for Nancy Cunard’s Negro: An Anthology.
You'll Walk Away with
- An understanding of high modernism and the role of race in some of its major texts
- Knowledge of the eugenics movement and other manifestations of scientific racism
- Those with an interest in cultural and literary history or the history of science
- Anyone wishing to learn more about the history of race and racism