London and Modernism essay questions

The attached document ‘Essay Questions…’  has all instructions as well as 21 different essay questions, choose one and respond to it in a form of a research paper. After choosing the essay question, let me know the question so I can attach/send the materials we discussed in class related to the CHOSEN question and if there are any texts that you want to include (other than the related materials) in the paper so I can confirm with the instructor first.



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This module is assessed by one essay of 5000 words (+/- 10%), responding to one of the questions below. Your essay should refer to at least two texts (sources) – literary texts, non-fictional prose works, or visual/filmic material – or any combination of these.


If you would like to write on a primary text (novel, poem, painting, manifesto etc) that we haven’t studied in class, make sure you check with your instructors first.


Format is referencing is MLA


The essay is due on 13:00 on Wednesday 4th May and should be submitted through Turn-it-in.


The essay should demonstrate:
Ø a clear line of argument
Ø detailed analysis of the primary texts with quotations from them and explanations/critical analysis from you.
Ø a developed sense of how the texts relate to key concerns of the period

Ø engagement secondary/critical material (academic journals, etc…)
Ø a firm structure and polished academic English.



ESSAY QUESTIONS (Choose 1 to respond to):


  1. Discuss any area of London in relation to twentieth-century representations or refigurings of it.


  1. How can changes in the representation of the individual in modernist fiction and/or visual art be seen as a response to the experience of the city in modernity?


  1. What role do time and temporality play in modernist representations of cities and urban life?


  1. Discuss the meanings and functions of the division or fragmentation of the self in modernist writing.


  1. Discuss the charge of cultural elitism regarding certain modernist representations of London life.


  1. ‘Modernism [is] a response by artists to that ‘disenchantment of the world’ to which cultural historians have long been drawing our attention. [Gabriel Josipovici] How do any of the writers or painters studied respond to such disenchantment?


  1. In the twentieth century women claimed and gained access to various public realms. How might you read womens’ representations of London as a gendered space?


  1. How significant is the metropolitan element of modernism AND/OR the avant-garde?


  1. Consider ONE of the following as shaping force upon modernism and/or the avant-gardes: a) Technology; b) Tradition; c) Prophecy; d) Magic/the Occult


  1. ‘At some point during the first half of the nineteenth century an irreversible split occurred between modernity as a stage in the history of Western civilisation…and modernity as an aesthetic concept.’ [Matei Calinescu] Discuss the relationship between ‘modernity’ and ‘modernism’ in the light of this statement.


  1. ‘The life of our city is rich in poetic and marvellous subjects. We are enveloped and steeped as though in an atmosphere of the marvellous’ [Baudelaire]. In the light of this statement, discuss the role played by EITHER urban life OR ‘the marvellous’ in modernist literature and theory.


  1. ‘The linchpin of [Baudelaire’s] entire theory of art is “modern beauty”.’ [Walter Benjamin] Where may we experience specifically modern forms of beauty in the work of any writer AND/OR painter studied?


  1. Discuss some of the ways in which modernism reinterprets laughter AND/OR the body.


  1. ‘Modernism marks neither a straightforward resistance nor an outright capitulation to commodification but a momentary equivocation that incorporates elements of both in a brief, necessarily unstable synthesis’ [Lawrence Rainey].


  1. ‘[T]he avant-garde, despite its various and often contradictory claims, tends to be regarded as the most extreme form of artistic negativism – art itself being the first victim. As for modernism, whatever its specific meaning in different languages and for different authors, it never conveys that sense of hysterical and universal negation so characteristic of the avant-garde.’ [Matei Calinescu] Do you agree with Calinescu’s distinction between modernism and the avant-garde?



  1. To what extent is modernism animated by ideas of Decadence OR Bohemianism?


  1. ‘The principle of individuality was always full of contradiction. Individuation has never really been achieved’ [Theodor Adorno & Max Horkheimer]. Evaluate this statement with reference to modernist and/or avant-garde writing.


  1. ‘It is as magical experiments with words, not as artistic dabbling, that we must understand the passionate phonetic and graphical transformational games that have run through the whole literature of the avant-garde’ [Walter Benjamin]. Discuss, with reference to avant-garde or modernist writing.


  1. ‘The most influential formal impulses of canonical modernism have been strategies of inwardness, which set out to reappropriate an alienated universe by transforming it into personal styles and private languages’ [Fredric Jameson]. Is there an alternative to a modernism of ‘inwardness’?


  1. ‘I should think that today we are at least far from the ridiculous immodesty that would be involved in decreeing from our corner that perspectives are permitted only from this corner’ [Friedrich Nietzsche]. How important to modernism is the taking of other perspectives?


  1. True philosophy consists in relearning to look at the world’ [Merleau-Ponty]. Does modernism share this principle?


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