Expats and Cosmopolitan Fiction

English 154, Autumn 2009, MW 1:15-3:05

Instructor: Andrew Goldstone

Printable syllabus (pdf)

Second Paper Assignment

CourseWork Site for this course


The early twentieth century was a golden age of cosmopolitan writing. Authors cast their imaginations far abroad—and they often did the same with their bodies, becoming expatriates, migrating to centers of cultural life like London and Paris—or, alternatively, fleeing the big city. But what kinds of fiction do cosmopolitan writers produce? Does international living produce certain ways of looking at the world? Or is it a lifestyle without deeper consequences? This course is a study of the history of expatriate fiction in the early twentieth century. What characterizes expatriate writing thematically and stylistically? How does fiction written in Europe in this period suggest ways of thinking, feeling, judging? How do expat writers' particular backgrounds and interests refract what they have in common? This course deliberately skims around the boundaries of modernist literature rather than focusing on the canonical modernist works of the period, even though expatriation and modernism are often thought to go hand-in-hand. Instead we emphasize the changing forms of novelistic realism and the broader questions of style and genre.

The course also aims to introduce advanced undergraduates to techniques for making analytical arguments about literature in context. Students are assumed to have practiced analyzing single texts in previous courses; also helpful, though not a necessary prerequisite, would be some study of literary theories and critical methods. The two paper assignments in this course require students to defend a thesis about the relationship between a literary work and larger historical, philosophical, aesthetic, political, or social concerns. The first paper must advance a comparative argument about at least two literary texts; through such comparisons we develop our sense of a literary context for early-twentieth-century fiction. The challenge of treating two texts in a small number of pages is meant to encourage concentration on a few significant details rather than attempts to deal comprehensively with whole novels. The second paper is a somewhat longer research paper, in which students have more freedom to choose topics and sources. Though the paper must deal with at least one text discussed in the course, it should also draw on other sources. Contemporary scholarship about literature is only one resource; other possible avenues for research include texts about early-twentieth-century history or early-twentieth-century documents of any kind. We will leave plenty of time, both during class and outside, for the students to discuss their ideas with each other and with the instructor.

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Schedule of Readings

Note: The role played by secondary readings will depend on the size of the course. Students, either individually or in groups, will be assigned to read and present on one of the secondary readings. Some may work in groups. Unassigned secondary material will be discussed in class by the instructor.

September 21. Introduction. Cosmopolitan: A Monthly Illustrated Magazine, ca. 1900, in class. (Available through Stanford library".)

September 23. Henry James, The Ambassadors (1903), books 1–2.
Optional: Preface to ibid. and Ian Watt, "The First Paragraph of The Ambassadors" (1960) (via CourseWork site).

September 28. The Ambassadors, books 3–8. James, "The Question of Our Speech" (1905).

September 30. The Ambassadors, books 9–12.
Secondary: Jessica Berman, "Henry James," chap. 2 in Modernist Fiction, Cosmopolitanism, and the Politics of Community (2001).

October 5. E.M. Forster, A Room with a View (1908), chapters 1–10.
Secondary: Rebecca Walkowitz, "Critical Cosmopolitanism and Modernist Narrative," Introduction to Cosmopolitan Style: Modernism beyond the Nation (2006).

October 7. Room with a View, chapters 11–20.
Optional Movie: A Room with a View, directed by James Ivory. On reserve for viewing at Green Library.

(October 9. Add-drop deadline.)

October 12. James Joyce, "Ivy Day in the Committee Room" and "The Dead," in Dubliners (1915).
Secondary: Bruce Robbins, "The Newspapers Were Right: Cosmopolitanism, Forgetting, and 'The Dead'" (2003).

October 14. Joyce, continued. This is a good moment to get ahead on either the first paper, the reading, or both.

October 19. Gertrude Stein, selected short works (ca. 1922): List of selections from the Library of America volume (pdf).
Preliminary assignment for first paper due: at least one page.
Optional: Stanford Presidential Lecture: André Aciman, "Parallax: Exile as Metaphor." Humanities Center, 7 p.m.

October 21. Ernest Hemingway, In Our Time (1925).

October 26. Claude McKay, Banjo (1929), chapters 1–12.
First paper due: 5 pp., comparative. Assignment (pdf).

October 28. Banjo, chapters 13–25.

November 2. Ibid., continued.
Secondary: Brent Hayes Edwards, "Vagabond Internationalism: Claude McKay's Banjo," chap. 4 of The Practice of Diaspora: Literature, Translation, and the Rise of Black Internationalism (2001; on reserve at the library).

November 4. No class.

November 9. Elizabeth Bowen, The Last September (1929).
Secondary: Jed Esty, "Virgins of Empire: The Last September and the Antidevelopmental Plot" (2007).

November 11. Bowen, continued.

November 13. Rescheduled class. Meet in 460-424.
Djuna Barnes, Nightwood (1937). (A more scholarly edition, edited by Cheryl Plumb and published by Dalkey Archive, is on reserve at the library.)
(Course withdrawal deadline.)

November 16. Nightwood, continued.
Preliminary assignment for second paper due: Bibliography and at least one page of writing, for in-class discussion of research paper topics and techniques.

November 18. Christopher Isherwood, Goodbye to Berlin (1939).

(November 23. Thanksgiving recess.)

November 30. (Dead Week.) Isherwood, continued.

December 2. Library day: Periodicals of expatriate literature.
Second paper due: 10 pp., research. Assignment (pdf).


20% Seminar Participation

You are expected to come class prepared and ready to engage in discussion. The purpose of the seminar format is to allow you to take intellectual risks, trying new ideas, ways of expressing yourself, styles of argumentation, and modes of collaborating with others; the purpose of including participation in your grade is to encourage you to do so. Participation also includes your work in any presentations or other short exercises I assign. You are, of course, expected to attend every class. If you have a serious reason why you must miss class, please contact me ahead of time. More than two unexcused absences will place you in danger of failing. If however you become seriously ill—especially if you have flu-like symptoms—please stay home, and get in touch with me as soon as you are well enough to do so.

30% First Paper

50% Second Paper

For more on the paper assignments, see the description above.

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Administrative Details

My office hours are Tuesday 1 p.m.-3 p.m. and Wednesday 4 p.m.-6 p.m. I am frequently available by appointment. I respond quickly to e-mail and am happy to discuss anything related to the course electronically or in person.

All students are to observe the Honor Code.

Students who have a disability that may require an academic accommodation or the use of auxiliary aids and services in a class should contact the Disability Resource Center (DRC) as soon as possible so that accommodations can be arranged.

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