The Modern City: From Modernism to Postmodernism

The details
Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies
Colchester Campus
Postgraduate: Level 7
Thursday 08 October 2020
Friday 18 December 2020
05 June 2020


Requisites for this module



Key module for

MA Q20E12 Modern and Contemporary Literature,
MA Q20E24 Modern and Contemporary Literature

Module description

This module "maps" modernism and postmodernism by revisiting their urban spaces. It is dedicated to a mode of literary and art-making that speaks in an "urban voice", innovatively reflecting/refracting the acceleration of time and the kaleidoscopic vistas of city-dwellers, as well as their "modern" emotions and thoughts. Hence, our readings and discussions will be structured around the cultural and political capitals of the twentieth and twenty-first century: New York, Paris, Berlin, Vienna, Moscow and London.

To foster comparative thinking, all texts are studied in translation (or their English original), but, wherever possible, students will also be provided with an opportunity to engage with the text in their original language.

This module places premium on an interdisciplinary approach to literature, and thus the discussions of literary works (including plays) will be complemented by audio and visual practices such as viewing of/listening to performances, films and readings, consideration of paintings and photographs, city maps and even urban planning decisions. We will also examine in depth the categories of modernism and postmodernism, as well as a range of theories of the modern/postmodern city.

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

1. To introduce students to an interdisciplinary approach to literature
2. To develop a critical understanding of the categories of modernism and postmodernism, as well as a range of theories of the modern/postmodern city.
3. To foster critical analysis and comparative thinking, including through the use of texts in translation as appropriate

Module learning outcomes

After successful completion of the module, students should be able to:

1. display detailed knowledge and critical understanding of the categories of modernism and postmodernism, as well as a range of theories of the modern/postmodern city.
2. demonstrate the knowledge and skills required to engage in intellectual debates around issues raised by modernism and postmodernism in a selection of urban spaces
3. plan, research, and write a critical essay.

Module information

The texts covered in this module include poetry of Charles Budelaire, Guillaume Apollinaire, Paul Éluard, and T. S. Eliot, fiction by John Dos Passos, Victor Pelevin, and Thomas Bernhard, plays/performances by Anton Chekhov, Bertolt Brecht, Robert Wilson, Peter Brook, and Caryl Churchill, films by Anthony Asquith, Luis Malle, and Dziga Vertov, and other artefacts.

Learning and teaching methods

For 2020-21, we will offer a mixture of tailored online, digital, and campus-based teaching where it may be possible and as appropriate, along with personalised one-to-one consultation with academic staff.


  • DeLillo, Don. (2008) Falling man: a novel, London: Picador.
  • Malle, Louis; Shawn, Wallace; Moore, Julianne; Smith, Brooke; Chekhov, Anton Pavlovich. (2012) Vanya on 42nd Street, [New York]: Criterion Collection. vol. The Criterion collection
  • Springsteen, Bruce. (no date) The Rising.
  • Brigand, Alan. (2002) 11/09/01 September 11.
  • Baudelaire, Charles; Mayne, Jonathan. (2006) The painter of modern life: and other essays, London: Phaidon Press.
  • Pelevin, Viktor. (2001) Babylon, London: Faber.
  • Burns, Ric; Stiers, David Ogden. (c1999, c2001, c2003) New York: a documentary film, [United States]: PBS Home Video.
  • Brecht, Bertolt; Willett, John; Ryland, Charlotte. (c2009) Fear and misery of the Third Reich, London: Methuen Drama.
  • Frisby, David; Featherstone, Mike; Simmel, Georg. (1997) Simmel on culture: selected writings, London: Sage.
  • Certeau, Michel de. (c1984) The practice of everyday life, Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • John Huston; James Joyce; Tony Huston. (1987) The Dead.
  • Chekhov, Anton; Hampton, Christopher. (2012) Uncle Vanya, London: Faber and Faber.
  • Dos Passos, John. (2000) Manhattan transfer, London: Penguin. vol. Penguin classics
  • Adamson, Samuel; Headlong Theatre. (2011) Decade: twenty new plays about 9/11 and its legacy, London: Nick Hern Books.
  • Vinaver, Michel. (c2002) 11 septembre 2001: livret : version française = 11 September 2001 : libretto : English version, Paris: L'Arche.
  • Döblin, Alfred; Hofmann, Michael. (©2018) Berlin Alexanderplatz, New York: New York Review Books.
  • Apollinaire, Guillaume; Revell, Donald. (©1995) Alcools: poems, Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press.
  • Baudelaire, Charles; McGowan, James. (©1993) The flowers of evil, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Eliot, T. S.; North, Michael. (c2001) The waste land: authoritative text, contexts, criticism, New York: W.W. Norton. vol. Norton critical edition
  • Farman, Jason. (2014) The mobile story: narrative practices with locative technologies, New York: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.
  • Carson, Peter. (2002) 'Uncle Vanya', in Plays, London: Penguin. vol. Penguin classics
  • Boal, Augusto. (2008) Theatre of the oppressed, London: Pluto.
  • Jameson, Fredric. (1991) Postmodernism or, The cultural logic of late capitalism, London: Verso.
  • Levenson, Michael H. (2011) The Cambridge companion to modernism, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. vol. Cambridge companions to literature
  • Asquith, Anthony; Landi, Elissa; Aherne, Brian. (2013) Underground, London: British Film Institute.
  • Breton, André. (1969) Manifestoes of surrealism, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
  • Morelos, Ronaldo. (1994/2005) Augusto Boal and Theatre of the Oppressed in Rio De Janeiro.
  • Clair, René. (1925) Paris qui dort (1925).
  • Vertov, Dziga. (1929) Man with a movie camera, [London?]: British Film Institute.
  • Strand, Paul; Sheeler, Charles. (c2005) Manhatta, New York, N.Y.: Kino on Video.
  • Joyce, James; Johnson, Jeri. (2000) Dubliners, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Wilson, Robert. (1986) Hamletmachine, New York.
  • Payne, Robert. (1995) 'The Bathhouse', in Mayakovsky--plays, Evanston, Ill: Northwestern University Press.
  • Éluard, Paul; Caws, Mary Ann; Terry, Patricia; Kline, Nancy. (©1926, 2006) Capital of pain, Boston, Mass: Black Widow Press.
  • Müller, Heiner; Weber, Carl. (1989) The battle: plays, prose, poems, New York: Paj.
  • Lang, Fritz; Harbou, Thea von; Abel, Alfred; Helm, Brigitte. (2010) Metropolis, [U.K.]: Eureka Entertainment. vol. 8

The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course. The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students. Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Weighting
Coursework   Research Essay (3,000-3,5000 words)     
Coursework   Online Portfolio     
Practical   Participation     

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Patricia Gillies, email:
Dr Patricia Gillies and Dr Joanna Rzepa
LiFTS General Office - email Telephone 01206 872626



External examiner

Prof Duncan James Salkeld
University of Chichester
Professor of Shakespeare and Renaissance Literature
Available via Moodle
Of 48 hours, 20 (41.7%) hours available to students:
28 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information

* Please note: due to differing publication schedules, items marked with an asterisk (*) base their information upon the previous academic year.

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