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C LIT 362 A: Topics in Modern Literature

Meeting Time: 
MW 3:30pm - 5:20pm
CMU 228
Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen

Syllabus Description:


M-W 3:30 – 5:20, CMU 228

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 Surrealism;  Nadja;  Communicating 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 3:   General introduction + History of surrealism – Dada.

                     Background reading: David Hopkins on the history of Dada and   


W    Jan 5:   History of surrealism – Dreams, hypnosis and everyday life.

                     Background reading: Sonu Shamdasani on spiritism and mediums.

M    Jan 10: History of surrealism -- The surrealist group.

                     Background reading: Maurice Blanchot on surrealism.                  

W   Jan 12:  History of surrealism – The politics of surrealism.

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

                     (Extracts), in Manifestoes of Surrealism.

M    Jan 17:  Martin Luther King Day – No class.

W   Jan 19:  Collage and the object.

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

                     on collage.

M    Jan 24:  Collage and the object – Screening of René Clair’s Entr’acte

W   Jan 26:   Guest lecture:  Douglas Collins, “The found object”.

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

                        of Surrealism.

M    Jan 31:  Louis Aragon, Paris Peasant.

                      Background reading: Walter Benjamin on surrealism.

W   Feb 2:    Louis Aragon, Paris Peasant.

M    Feb 7:   General review.

W   Feb 9:    Mid-term exam.

M    Feb 14:  André Breton, First Manifesto of Surrealism.

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

                      Breton, Paul Eluard and Robert Desnos.

W    Feb 16:  André Breton, First Manifesto of Surrealism. – Screening of Antonin Artaud’s The Seashell and the Clergyman.

                       Background reading: Jean Goudal, “Surrealism and cinema” 

M    Feb 21:   Presidents’ Day -- No class.

W     Feb 23:  André Breton, Communicating Vessels.

M     Feb 28:  André Breton, Nadja.

W     Mar 2:   Documents:  André Breton, Salvador Dalí and Georges Bataille.

                       Readings: Georges Bataille in Documents and on Dalí.

M     Mar 7:   General review and screening of Salvador Dalí and Luis Buñuel’s Un   chien Andalou.

W    Mar 9:    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 12, 2021 - 10:22pm