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2020 SAS summer courses will take place remotely. For undergraduates, please check Penn InTouch for updated summer course information. For graduate and professional students, please consult your schools and programs. Summer study abroad remains cancelled.

The College of Liberal and Professional Studies staff is working remotely to comply with University protocols as we navigate the COVID-19 virus. Penn is committed to maintaining a safe campus and workplace for faculty, students, staff, and visitors. While we are not onsite, we are still available Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. by phone and online in case you need support: (215) 898-7326 or

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The Twentieth Century

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Subject Area: 
Course Number: 
ENGL 104 920


Course Description: 

This course will offer a guided introduction to major movements and figures in twentieth century literature set in the context of the past century's serial revolutions in art, science, philosophy, religion, economics, and politics. Our focus will be on landmark works of prose fiction, primarily from England and America.  Over five and a half weeks of dedicated reading, we will cover the iconic historical upheavals of the twentieth century— industrial modernity, mass media, consumerism, world wars, the Cold War, migration, the civil rights movement, decolonization, and globalization. Our approach to these events will be that of a specifically literary history. We will begin by reading some of the most iconic and influential works of literature from the early twentieth century, by authors like James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, and Franz Kafka. Next, we will read three short novels from the second half of the twentieth century, encountering alienated French intellectuals in north Africa, melancholic immigrants in England, and the ghosts of murdered slaves. We will conclude by reflecting on the crossroads in which contemporary literature finds itself, torn between the prestige of ‘literary fiction’ and the popularity of genres like noir and science fiction.  Students of all levels and backgrounds are welcome. No prior experience with university-level arts or literature courses is required for this course. By the end of the course, students will have acquired a clear sense of the broad contours of twentieth century literary history and of key terms in literary studies (realism, modernism, postmodernism, postcolonialism etc.). 

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3440 Market Street, Suite 100
Philadelphia, PA 19104-3335

(215) 898-7326

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