Faculty of Arts

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This unit entry is for students who completed this unit in 2016 only. For students planning to study the unit, please refer to the unit indexes in the the current edition of the Handbook. If you have any queries contact the managing faculty for your course or area of study.

Monash University

6 points, SCA Band 1, 0.125 EFTSL

Undergraduate - Unit

Refer to the specific census and withdrawal dates for the semester(s) in which this unit is offered.



Organisational Unit

School of Languages, Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics


Dr Chris Watkin



  • First semester 2016 (Day)


Does language create our world, or does it merely describe it? If it is the former, then what are the stakes for literature? Working with a range of novelists, poets, and theorists, this course will explore literature that engages with these questions of representation in the most innovative and exciting ways. Modernism has long been a term used to describe a radical international and experimental movement in the arts dating roughly form 1890 to 1940. More recently, however, modernism has undergone a reassessment and is now increasingly seen as an ongoing aesthetic response to various social, moral, technological, and political transformations. This unit will examine some of the major figures of avant-garde and 'High' modernism but it will also be attentive to examples of regional, 'middlebrow' and popular modernist literature's, as well as to modernism's afterlife in postmodern and contemporary literature. We will reflect on some of the most influential concepts in the early part of the twentieth century in relation to cultural and material upheavals, including urbanization, scientific and technological advances, conflicts about sexuality, and the women's movement. Our focus will be on the literary works from both within and outside of the English-speaking world that stand at the heart of definitions and debates about modernism. Foreign-language texts will be studied in English translation.


On successful completion of the unit students will have:

  1. a sophisticated understanding of modernist aesthetics and themes;
  2. the ability to assess and interpret the relationship between literary texts and their social and political context;
  3. an informed understanding of some key approaches to modernist literature;
  4. developed an informed critical perspective on modernism as a term of periodisation;
  5. advanced undergraduate-level skills in the reading and interpretation of literary texts.


Within semester assessment: 100%

Workload requirements

Minimum total expected workload to achieve the learning outcomes for this unit is 144 hours per semester typically comprising a mixture of scheduled learning activities and independent study. A unit requires on average three/four hours of scheduled activities per week. Scheduled activities may include a combination of teacher directed learning, peer directed learning and online engagement.

See also Unit timetable information

Chief examiner(s)

This unit applies to the following area(s) of study


Twelve credit points of second-year Arts units, including at least one cornerstone unit in literary studies.