Language and the Self in Twentieth Century Literature
One of the defining characteristics of modernist literature is its linguistic self-consciousness and its engagement with the fact that we live in 'a world made of words.' In this course, we examine the work of twentieth-century writers who violate linguistic norms in order to question social, psychological and philosophical norms. These violations raise questions about the role of the individual in society, challenge the notion of a stable, cohesive self, and break down accepted category distinctions such as concrete/abstract and real/imaginary. We focus on the ways in which each author's linguistic disruptions embody the thematic concerns of his or her work. We read theorists such as H.P. Grice, John Searle, Roman Jakobson and TzvetanTodorov; major literary figures such as Samuel Beckett, William Faulkner, Gertrude Stein, Paul Celan, Franz Kafka, Alain Robbe-Grillet and Wallace Stevens; and contemporaries such as Lydia Davis, Stephen Dixon and James Kelman.