Fall 2021 - HUM 309 D100

Literatures and the Arts Across Cultures (4)

Class Number: 4452

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 8 – Dec 7, 2021: Mon, 4:30–8:20 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    45 units.



An interdisciplinary study of literary texts in translation and/or art forms across cultures and periods. Students may repeat this course for further credit under a different topic. Students with credit for HS 309 or WL 309 under this topic, or HS 303 under the title "Reflection on the Greek Civil War" may not take this course for further credit. Breadth-Humanities.



In this course, we will examine works of art and literature that raise questions about language, politics, and subjectivity in the historical and cultural context of the 20th century. We will consider in particular: 1) the crisis of language and representation; 2) the crisis of the subject; 3) the relation of modernism to modernity; and 4) the relation of aesthetics to politics in the wake of the crisis of capitalism that led to WWI.  

In charting the territory of the many aesthetic and cultural experimentations that took place in the course of the 20th century, we will consider questions of form and technique, cultural communities and networks, the radical breaks with tradition operated by different avant-garde formations, and, in some cases, the lapse or retreat into more conservative social politics.

Alongside literature and art, we will look at historical documents (statements, letters, and manifestos) that articulate the reflections, anxieties, and challenges of intellectuals about these times of radical change—times which comprised two World Wars, the rise of fascism, totalitarian regimes, imperialism and decolonization, technological innovations, social oppression but also emancipation.

The course material focuses on Europe as a “dialogic space” rather than an identity. It will therefore include connections with American, African-American, Mexican, African, and Indigenous art as significant influences on and exchanges with European schools.

We will begin with a few 19th documents addressing the emergence of the modern before moving to the early decades of the 20th century to discuss writings that interrogate modern aesthetics, and the formulations of the historical avant-gardes. We will continue with the manifestos of different movements, from Futurism and Cubism to Surrealism and Anarchism, and the analysis of the genre of the manifesto. After the examination of the regroupings of the 1930s and the 1940s in the midst of the rise of fascism, we will look at the neo-avantgardes, neorealism and new wave cinema, and indigenous art of the post-WWII period.

Classes will start with the reading of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway.


  • Demonstrate an understanding of the historical development of literary and artistic experimentation in the 20th century and the connections among different cultural traditions (Europe, the Americas, Africa, Indigeneity)
  • Develop theoretical and analytical tools pertaining to different literary and artistic forms.
  • Develop their own perspective regarding questions and debates addressed by 20th century intellectuals with regard to the political work of art and literature.
  • Integrate historical, literary, philosophical, aesthetic, and political analysis.
  • Communicate their ideas and the result of their research effectively and engage in class debate.
  • Generate persuasive argumentation and support it through analysis of specific evidence.




  • Attendance/Participation 10%
  • Short paper on literature (5 pages) 20%
  • Canvas discussion of theory and criticism 20%
  • Short paper on Art or Cinema (5 pages) 20%
  • Midterm 25%
  • Creative Assignment (2pages) 5%



  1. Virginia Woolf, Dalloway [1925]
    Penguin, 2000: ISBN-13: 978-0141182490 (or any unabridged edition)
  2. Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time: Swann’s Way [1913]. Trans. William Carter.
    Yale UP, 2013: ISBN-13: 978-0300185430 (or any unabridged translation)
    (we will read only selections of this novel)
  3. Kafka, The Trial [1914-5, p. 1925] Trans. Breon Mitchell.
    Schocken, 1999: ISBN-13: 978-0805209990 (e-book also available)
  4. Vicente Huidobro, Altazor [long poem, 1919-1931], available on Canvas.
  5. Bohumil Hrabal, Too Loud a Solitude. Trans. Michael Henry Heim.
    Mariner Books, 2001: 978-0156904582 (e-book also available)


A selection of theory and criticism (including Lukacs, Gramsci, Trotsky, Eisenstein, Shklovsky, Benjamin, Adorno and Horkheimer), art manifestos, and poetry will also be available on Canvas.



  • Josef Kilian (Dir. Pavel Juráček and Jan Schmidt, 1964)
  • Rome 11 o'clock [Roma, ore 11] (dir. Giuseppe De Santis, 1952)
  • Closely Watched Trains (Dir. Jiří Menzel, 1966)

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

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Teaching at SFU in fall 2021 will involve primarily in-person instruction, with approximately 70 to 80 per cent of classes in person/on campus, with safety plans in place.  Whether your course will be in-person or through remote methods will be clearly identified in the schedule of classes.  You will also know at enrollment whether remote course components will be “live” (synchronous) or at your own pace (asynchronous).

Enrolling in a course acknowledges that you are able to attend in whatever format is required.  You should not enroll in a course that is in-person if you are not able to return to campus, and should be aware that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who may need class or exam accommodations, including in the context of remote learning, are advised to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112) as early as possible in order to prepare for the fall 2021 term.