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Literary Modernism: The Struggle for Modern History

Discover an intriguing reconsideration of some of the most controversial authors of the 20th century: the Literary Modernists.

Literary Modernism: The Struggle for Modern History is rated 4.4 out of 5 by 43.
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Rated 3 out of 5 by from Ambivalent about this course I listened to the whole course -- nearly gave up a couple times -- and read the guidebook, but came away very ambivalent. I compliment The Teaching Co for continuing to include courses like this with advanced intellectual content (unlike their more recent direction with the lightweight Wondrium). I have 2 degrees from Ivy League schools and like to be challenged, and this course is clearly at a graduate seminar level. However, it is just too dense and does not lend itself to an 8-lecture format. Perl tries to do too much. Often, after hearing a statement or two I went "what?" and wanted to re-wind but that's tough to do. In-person education is much better at this level. The title, which at least one other reviewer has criticized, should have been a subtext. Perl does not really set the stage well, failing to define terms clearly enough at the outset. So the course is essentially a deep dive into Eliot, Yeats, Joyce, Pound and a couple others. That should have been the title and thus I think people wishing to learn more about those writers would appreciate the lectures more than I did. Another aspect which gnawed at me throughout was a skepticism about the BREADTH of Perl's perspective. This may have been deflected by a certain arrogance of tone -- and btw in general I'm OK with a "professorial" persona -- but it actually made me question if Perl is that much of an authority on the topic of modernism, despite his resume. I wanted to like him, but found myself often saying "what?" and "really?" I am glad I got the course and learned a lot of things, but consider my comments cautionary.
Date published: 2024-03-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from erudite and challenging fully met my expectations. greatly ramped up my knowledge on the topic. highly impressed by the lecturer. so amazingly knowledgable and articulate. very well structured and to the point delivery. thought provoking analysis and interpretation that has left me with interest in further exploring the topic and examining his perspectives...
Date published: 2022-11-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from nothing short of brilliant insights and clarity I originally went through this course a decade ago and listen again several times over the years sense. Recently I bought the online version and went through it yet again. I was delighted to find that it totally held up to my high expectations. And it got me to finally take a deep dive on my own into exploring the philosophy and spirituality behind the poetry of T.S. Eliot.
Date published: 2022-08-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Jeffrey Perl on Modernism The substance, and Prof. Perl’s delivery, are both superb! His urgency is contagious. I’ve returned to it several times over the years and expanded my reading to include works I had been only marginally interested to read. High praise! Wish we had more from him, but I’m glad I didn’t miss this experience!
Date published: 2022-04-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Enjoyable and Worthwhile This is an enjoyable course. Jeffrey Perl puts into one of two categories the work of several of my favorite authors, work I had previously esteemed for its value as highbrow entertainment. The course material is dense, difficult to "get," so it forces one to think. Not long ago I may have claimed to be wired as a neomodernist, yet according to Professor Perl my preference in literature and philosophy is distinctly paleomodern. Who knew? Otherwise I am skeptical. Jeffrey Perl is an opinionated man. Were I to read every source on his lengthy Essential Readings list would I reach his same conclusions? Would I fall in love, as he has, with T. S. Eliot? Would the father of science fiction still be a realist? Was Hemingway’s style influenced by Gertrude Stein’s disparagement of the comma? And how ‘bout that Henry James? To anyone with a bent for literature I would recommend this worthwhile course.
Date published: 2021-10-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from brief but brilliant This is a point of view take on literary theory which I found refreshing. You can be sure many others will take exception.
Date published: 2021-01-31
Rated 3 out of 5 by from This was a tough course to enjoy. It felt to me that this was aimed at a much more educated and sophisticated person than myself. While I know many of the authors that the professor had referenced, his style of teaching was not to my taste at all.
Date published: 2020-12-23
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A very advanced, graduate-level set of lectures This course is much more advanced than is typical for The Great Courses. It presumes you are already familiar with most of the authors discussed, and it interprets (or reinterprets) the relationship of TS Eliot, James Joyce, Yeats and others with the literary tradition, 20th century history and each other. I found the course stimulating, even if at times I felt confused about who the professor was linking with whom. The best part for me was Lecture 2, where he explained how TS Eliot's philosophical work at Harvard anticipated and paralleled Ludwig Wittgenstein's later work. This was a revelation to me, as I studied Wittgenstein in graduate school. I knew that Eliot had quit philosophy for literature, but I did not realize that he was the star of the philosophy department and yet rejected the field after coming to understand the intellectual hollowness of the philosophical tradition. The professor mentioned that he'd had access to Eliot's unpublished Harvard-era writings, and this added to the sense of revelation I felt on this topic. I also appreciated his keen dissection of the political leanings of the men under discussion. The other lecture that made a big impression on me was the one on why modernist drama usually fell flat, as it struggled with the preconceptions and tastes of bourgeois audiences. I can recommend this course only to those who have a decent background in 20th century literature. You needn't have read all the works under discussion but you should already know the major players.
Date published: 2020-09-20
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Overview

Join Professor Jeffrey Perl on an intriguing reconsideration of some of the most controversial authors of the 20th century: the Literary Modernists. Just who were these authors? What social and political forces made them write the way they did? Literary Modernism: The Struggle for Modern History does not shrink from the challenges imposed by these questions. But it does provide you with illuminating answers that can enhance your appreciation of the literature, philosophy, politics, and morality of this seminal moment in literary history.

About

Jeffrey Perl

After six or seven reads, it gets easier is how a gas station attendant in Dayton told NPR why "Ulysses" was not too hard a novel to be his favorite. Reducing the number of readings required by five is my aim in this lecture series.

INSTITUTION

Bar-Ilan University

Dr. Jeffrey Perl is Professor of English Literature at Bar-Ilan University, Israel. He earned his A.B., summa cum laude, from Stanford University, did postgraduate work at Oxford University, and earned his Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Princeton University. Prior to taking his position in Israel, Professor Perl held teaching positions at Columbia University and the University of Texas at Dallas. He has been a Guggenheim Fellow, a Rockefeller Foundation Fellow in the Humanities, a visiting Fellow at Mansfield College at Oxford, a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow, and a Fulbright Professor at Hebrew University. He is the author of numerous books, articles, reviews, monographs, and anthologies, including Skepticism and Modern Enmity: Before and After Eliot (1989) and The Tradition of Return: The Implicit History of Modern Literature (1984). He is the founder and editor of Common Knowledge: A Journal of Intellectual History and Cultural Studies. Common Knowledge is winner of the Award for Best Journal in the Humanities and Social Sciences from the Association of American Publishers.

Introduction—Modernity and Modernism

01: Introduction—Modernity and Modernism

This lecture discusses the two kinds of modernism: paleomodernism and neomodernism. A poem by William Carlos Williams, "The Red Wheelbarrow," is presented as the neomodernist response to the paleomodernism of T. S. Eliot and others. The lecture then begins the examination of the characteristics that differentiate the two schools.

50 min
Transition

02: Transition

The neomodernist view is examined, and we learn that T. S. Eliot's work was influenced by his early study of philosophy and that he disagreed with the direction taken by philosophers. Therefore, Eliot chose the discourse of poetry over that of philosophy.

48 min
Against Theory

03: Against Theory

We review the career of W. B. Yeats and trace his shift from symbolist to realist. Conversely, Henry James's career is examined because it moves from realist to symbolist. At the end of the lecture we hear T. S. Eliot's assertion that romanticism and neoclassicism are personalities that were once joined.

49 min
Waste Lands

04: Waste Lands

The effects of the Depression and World War II were profound, and the modernists reflected their concern in art. T. S. Eliot, D. H. Lawrence, and others considered themselves to be therapists to the world. Eliot's "The Waste Land" and works by Lawrence called for a new religion to lead to the rebirth of society.

44 min
The Complete Consort

05: The Complete Consort

James Joyce's "Ulysses" is presented as the ultimate paleomodernist novel. Joyce's goal was to capture the full circle of history and the novel's structure uses chaos and opposing themes to create one phenomenon. Even postmodernists admire the work because of the use of chaos.

50 min
Modernist Theater

06: Modernist Theater

While modernist literature thrived, we learn from this lecture that modernist drama failed to win popular support. Some poets such as Yeats decided to battle the middle class through drama. By the 1940s, T. S. Eliot had decided that art should respond to the public, and he was able to find commercial success.

44 min
Apocalypse

07: Apocalypse

The Depression and World War II altered the focus of the modernists. Most were involved in politics, but the movement was represented on both the right and left. The Spanish Civil War had a tremendous impact on the writers. The politics of Ezra Pound are examined at the end of the lecture.

43 min
Postwar, Postmodern, Postculture

08: Postwar, Postmodern, Postculture

This final lecture takes us from Evelyn Waugh, who presented us with a "Hollywood metaphysics" in which the fake world is ideal, to Samuel Beckett, who unites the themes of modernism and thus helps define modernism's end. The modernists are no longer against the bourgeoisie and are seeking to understand and influence the middle class.

45 min

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