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Modernism and Modernity

Class at Faculty of Arts |




"To the degree that modernity has a meaning, it is this: that it carries within itself, from the beginning, a radical negation -- Dada, this event which took place in a Zurich cafe" (Henri Lefebvre)

This is a graduate seminar in the Critical and Cultural Theory MA Programme


The purpose of this seminar is to trace the development of Modernism and concepts of modernity across a number of fields of cultural production, from the end of the 18th-century to the present. Methodologically, the course will seek to apply recent scientific and artistic insights as the basis for an exploration of modernity, and modernist poetics in particular, as affecting a mode of the “contemporary.” The content and organisation of the seminar is not designed to be exhaustive in this regard, but rather to provide a constellation of reference points around which students may be able to structure their own original research. Students are expected to demonstrate a significant amount of personal initiative in familiarising themselves with the various historical developments constituting the “modernist” era, particularly in regards to the evolution of the Anglo-European avant-gardes and discourses of “post-modernism.” In particular, students are encouraged to familiarise themselves with the major trends in the history of 20th-century art.


One essay, of 3000 words due 10 June. Essays must include full bibliographical references (footnotes) for all works cited or paraphrased (preferably in accordance with the MLA style, e.g. Emphasis will be placed on the component of original research, and students are advised not to use Web sources in place of adequately researching texts available in print. Deadline for submission of essays is 10 June. The topic of the essay is: "POSTMODERNISM WAS CAPITALISM'S MASTERSTROKE" (Fukuyama)? with a focus on material drawn from any aspect of the seminar, framed within a critical/theoretical apparatus. Attendance in this course is compulsory (students are allowed a maximum of 2 physical/intellectual absences).

*The seminar will closely reference arguments & analyses presented in Louis Armand, SOLICITATIONS: ESSAYS ON CRITICISM & CULTURE (Prague: Litteraria Pragensia, 2008). It is strongly advised that students familiarise themselves with this text. Specific readings for each session will be advised.


* The Anti-Aesthetic: Essays on Postmodern Culture, ed. Hal Foster (1983)

• Jean-François Lyotard, “What is Post-Modernism?”

• Michel Foucault, "Panopticism"

• Francis Fukuyama, "The End of History"

• Jürgen Habermas, “Modernity—An Incomplete Project”

• Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”

• Fredric Jameson, “Postmodernism and Consumer Society”

• Vannevar Bush, “As We May Think”

• Jean Baudrillard, "The Precession of Simularcra"


• Peter Bürger, Theory of the Avant-Garde

• Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle

• William R. Everdell, The First Moderns

• Sigmund Freud, Beyond the Pleasure Principle

• Siegried Giedion, Mechanisation Takes Command

• Martin Heidegger, “The Question Concerning Technology”

• Jacques Lacan, “A Materialist Definition of Consciousness”

• Henri Lefebvre, Introduction to Modernity

• Karl Marx, “Economic & Philosophical Manuscripts”

• Marshall McLuhan, The Gutenberg Galaxy

• Lewis Mumford, Technics & Civilisation

• Walter J. Ong, Literacy & Orality: The Technologising of the Word

• Renato Poggioli, The Theory of the Avant-Garde

• Norbert Wiener, Cybernetics


• Guillaume Apollinaire, “Calligrammes”

• Samuel Beckett, “Texts for Nothing”;

• William Burroughs, Naked Lunch

• Willliam Gibson, Neuromancer

• Velimir Khlebnikov, “Zaum”

• James Joyce, “Anna Livia Plurabelle” (Finnegans Wake)

• Stéphane Mallarmé, “Un coup de dés”

• Georges Perec, Life: A User’s Manual

• Ezra Pound, Cantos

• Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow

• Stein, Tender Buttons

• Jonathan Swift, “The Academy of Lagado,” (Gulliver’s Travels)

*NB It is the responsibility of students to obtain copies of the required readings.

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