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C LIT 362 A: Topics in Modern Literature

Meeting Time: 
MW 3:30pm - 5:20pm
MLR 316
Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen

Syllabus Description:


M-W 3:30 – 5:20, MLR 316

Instructor: Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen

Padelford B-524

Office hours:  Th 2:00 – 3:20 pm


Description: Surrealism, which emerged in Paris in the early 1920s from the social upheaval of post-WWI Europe and more especially from Dadaism, is arguably the most influential avant-garde movement of the 20th century. It rejected social, moral and logical conventions and sought to revolutionize art, literature, politics and life in the name of freedom, desire and the unconscious. Surrealist art, which was viewed by the surrealists as a means of liberation beyond purely aesthetic considerations, is characterized by a diversity of forms of expression: writing, painting, drawing, photography, film, collage, found objects, sculpture, theater; and of practices: automatic writing, hypnosis, and somnambulic strolling in the streets of Paris. We will study all these forms of expression and examine the challenges surrealism poses to traditional notions of art, literature and politics.

Readings:  André Breton, Manifestoes of SurrealismNadjaCommunicating Vessels;  Louis Aragon, Paris Peasant.  All titles are available from UW Book Store.

The readings will also include essays and other materials provided on the course website on Canvas.

Assignments:  One in-class midterm exam and one in-class final.

Schedule of meetings and readings:

M    Jan 6:    General introduction + History of surrealism – Dada.

                     Background reading: David Hopkins on the history of Dada and   


W    Jan 8:    History of surrealism – Dreams, hypnosis and everyday life.

                     Background reading: Sonu Shamdasani on spiritism and mediums.

M    Jan 13:  History of surrealism -- The surrealist group.

                     Background reading: Maurice Blanchot on surrealism.                  

W   Jan 15:   History of surrealism – The politics of surrealism.

                     Readings: André Breton, 2nd Manifesto + Political Position of Surrealism

                     (Extracts), in Manifestoes of Surrealism.

M    Jan 20:   Martin Luther King Day – No class.

W   Jan 22:    Collage and the object.

                      Background reading: Louis Aragon, “Challenge to painting” + Max Ernst

                      on collage.

M    Jan 27:   Collage and the object – Screening of René Clair’s Entr’acte

W   Jan 29:    Guest lecture:  Douglas Collins, “The found object”.

                      Reading: André Breton, “Surrealist situation of the object”, in Manifestoes

                      of Surrealism.

  1. Feb 3:Louis Aragon, Paris Peasant.

                      Background reading: Walter Benjamin on surrealism.

W   Feb 5:     Louis Aragon, Paris Peasant.

M    Feb 10:   General review.

W   Feb 12:    Mid-term exam.

M    Feb 17:   Presidents’ Day -- No class.

W    Feb 19:   André Breton, First Manifesto of Surrealism.

                       Background reading: Sigmund Freud, “The Uncanny” + Poems by André

                       Breton, Paul Eluard and Robert Desnos.

M    Feb 24:   André Breton, First Manifesto of Surrealism. – Screening of Antonin Artaud’s The Seashell and the Clergyman.

                       Background reading: Jean Goudal, “Surrealism and cinema”

W     Feb 26:  André Breton, Communicating Vessels.

M     Mar 2:    André Breton, Nadja.

W     Mar 4:    Documents:  André Breton, Salvador Dalí and Georges Bataille.

                       Readings: Georges Bataille in Documents and on Dalí.

M     Mar 9:    General review and screening of Salvador Dalí and Luis Buñuel’s Un   chien Andalou.

W    Mar 11:  Final exam.


Catalog Description: 
Explores topics in literature and cultures of the modern world (approximately 1800-present) across national and regional cultures, such as particular movements, authors, genres, themes, or problems.
Department Requirements Met: 
Literature Core
GE Requirements Met: 
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Last updated: 
October 7, 2019 - 9:50pm