On Time: Clocks, Calendars, Crisis in Modern British Fiction


This course focuses on the cultural understanding and literary representation of time in the first half of the twentieth century. Our authors include Virginia Woolf, H. G. Wells, Jean Rhys, Katherine Mansfield, Joseph Conrad, C.I. James, Mulk Raj Anand, and a number of other canonical and non-canonical writers. In their novels, novellas, and short fiction, these writers take account of a profound change in the metrics and meanings of time. Following the establishment of Standard or Greenwich Mean Time at the end of the nineteenth century, the experience of time shifted from a "natural" (daily, seasonal, annual) to an "artificial' (numerical, standard, global) measure. This new standard time, also known as "rational" or "public" time, moved at once stimulated interesting, significant, and lasting responses in the arts of literature, the novel and short fiction especially, that moved in time. What we know as "the stream of consciousness," for instance, witnesses a new emphasis on "private" internal time as a reaction to rational, public time. We will follow this evolving sense of time into and through some of the cataclysmic, not so "rational" events in real historical time: two World Wars (both undergone and anticipated), the rising and spreading crises of Empire, a global financial meltdown, and the near-revolutions achieved by the women's and workers' movements. Here the understanding of the meaning and shape of history and the direction of historical time is richly conflicted, and the literature of the period takes the measure of this duress. Our reading will include work from the British Isles as well as colonial (soon to be postcolonial) locations. Satisfies the Twentieth Century and later requirement in the English Major and the university's Advanced Writing requirement.
Course Attributes: EN H; BU Hum; AS HUM; AS WI I; FA HUM; AR HUM

Section 01

On Time: Clocks, Calendars, Crisis in Modern British Fiction
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