A Century of Surrealist Literature
Time: 14:45 - 16:45
This course will be delivered online. See the ‘What is the course about?’ section in course details for more information.
Course Code: HLT86
Duration: 8 sessions (over 8 weeks)
What is the course about?
This course will track the influence of Surrealism on world literature since its birth in the 1920s as a response to the trauma of World War I. By initially planting their flag on the terrain of dreams and the subconscious, a small group of poets in Paris eventually turned Surrealism into a movement that was taken up in multiple artforms, particularly painting and film, and gained international significance. Even decades after André Breton first laid out his principles of Surrealism in manifestoes and journals, the movement’s ability to disrupt experience and shock morality made it one of the most productive artistic mediums for critiquing the limits of the mentally and socially possible. We will focus on the works of writers who were either directly involved with the Surrealist movement in France or adapted Surrealist ideas for their countries and contexts. Along with the French progenitors of Surrealism, this course will include literature from Great Britain to Japan, from the Middle East to Latin America and the Caribbean. The course will also discuss the history and basic concepts of Surrealism and the efforts of its many practitioners to extend the movement beyond art and literature, attempting to fulfill its promise as a psychological and political revolution.
This is a live online course. You will need:
- Internet connection. The classes work best with Chrome.
- A computer with microphone and camera is best (e.g. a PC/laptop/iMac/MacBook), or a tablet/iPad/smart phone/iPhone if you don't have a computer.
We will contact you with joining instructions before your course starts.
What will we cover?
We’ll cover the origins of Surrealism as a poetic movement in post-World War I Paris, as well as some of its literary precursors and early figures. The importance of psychoanalysis to the movement will also be a topic of study, as will Surrealism’s attempt to engage in political activity in the 1930s and 40s. As the course content begins to explore the works of non-European writers, the question of how Surrealism came into contact with nations and writers outside of Europe will also be addressed. Finally, we will analyse what techniques and themes Surrealism offers to the writers in social and political contexts often vastly different from that which gave birth to Surrealism in the first place.
What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...
• Evaluate and analyse the texts being studied.
• Engage with Surrealist art and literature from a number of different perspectives, including the aesthetic, social, and historical.
• Contexualise and evaluate the lasting influence of Surrealism.
What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?
You don’t need any particular skills for this course. Some of the topics addressed are controversial, so a willingness to engage with the readings and listening to the views of fellow students will be essential.
How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?
We will examine a selection of novels, short stories, and poems. Close readings, work in small groups and pairs, and discussions of historical and literary contexts will be part of the course activity. Comparisons to other artforms, such as painting and film, will also make up part of the course. Other than reading the texts before class, there will be no work outside of class.
Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?
Please purchase or borrow the following texts:
André Breton, Nadja, Penguin Classics (1999)
Alejo Carpentier, The Kingdom of this World, FSG Classics (2017)
Sadegh Hedayat, The Blind Owl, Grove Press (2010)
Kobo Abe, The Woman in the Dunes, Penguin Classics (2006)
China Miéville, The Last Days of New Paris, Picador (2018)
Poetry and short stories by the following authors will be provided online:
Ece Ayhan Çaglar
J G Ballard
When I've finished, what course can I do next?
Please look for other literary history courses on the web under History, Culture and Writing/Literature at www.citylit.ac.uk.
Although he has lived in the United Kingdom for more than ten years, James Leveque is a native of California. He has taught courses in literature at City Lit, the University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh Napier, and the University of Dundee. James’s first monograph, entitled Words Like Fire: Prophecy and Apocalypse in Apollinaire, Marinetti, and Pound (Legenda) will be published in 2021. His research interests lie at the intersections of literature, religion, and social theory – particularly in 20th-century English, American, and French literature.
Please note: We reserve the right to change our tutors from those advertised. This happens rarely, but if it does, we are unable to refund fees due to this. Our tutors may have different teaching styles; however we guarantee a consistent quality of teaching in all our courses.