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Study information

Modernism and Material Culture

Module titleModernism and Material Culture
Module codeEASM151
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Dr Felicity Gee (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

This module will explore questions of materiality in modernism. Ranging across modernist poetry, novels and drama, as well as the films, and avant-garde movements of the period,  it will investigate the objects and things highlighted by modernist writers, artists and directors, the ways in which they describe the materiality of everyday life (including examining clothes, houses, the weather, modernist technologies and commercial objects), and matters relating to the body, phenomenology, and modernist language. Offering an opportunity to investigate a range of texts and films, this module will also engage with important theories of ‘things’ and materiality. Through thinking in depth about material culture, the module will provide you with a close, sophisticated knowledge of the composition of modernism and of early twentieth-century life; it will also introduce you to exciting recent developments in modernist studies, suggesting avenues for further research.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The module aims to consider modernism’s relationship to the material world. You will gain a sophisticated knowledge of modernist literary texts, and will be enabled to make connections between modernist literature and film, theories of materiality, and the historical and cultural contexts of the early twentieth century. The course will be structured by theme rather than chronology, allowing the development of a sophisticated conceptual understanding of the materiality of modernism.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Demonstrate an advanced, detailed appreciation of specific works, films and authors of the modernist period
  • 2. Demonstrate an advanced capacity to relate modernist texts to their literary, cultural and historical contexts
  • 3. Demonstrate a sophisticated and intellectually mature ability to analyse the literature and film of the early twentieth-century and to relate its concerns and its modes of expression to its historical and other contexts

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 4. Demonstrate an advanced and autonomous ability to understand and analyse relevant theoretical ideas, and to apply these ideas to literary texts.
  • 5. Demonstrate an advanced and autonomous ability to understand and analyse relevant theoretical ideas, and to apply these ideas to literary texts.

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 6. Through online seminar work and workshopping, demonstrate advanced communication skills, and an ability to articulate your views convincingly both individually and in groups.
  • 7. Through essay-writing and other assignments, demonstrate advanced research and bibliographic skills, an advanced and intellectually mature capacity to construct a coherent, substantiated argument and to write clear and correct prose.
  • 8. Through the planning and organisation of research projects, demonstrate independence of thought and confidence in developing ideas and formulating questions.
  • 9. Through the writing of research projects, demonstrate an ability to construct work of substantial length, detail, and some originality.

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • An indicative list of taught materials, although subject to change.
  • An Introduction to Modernist Objects: Virginia Woolf’s ‘Solid Objects’ (1919), Wallace Stevens’ ‘Anecdote of the Jar’ (1920), Bill Brown on ‘thing theory’
  • Objects and the Natural Environment: Willa Cather’s My Antonia (1918)
  • Collections and Collecting: James Joyce, ‘Ithaca’ episode from Ulysses (1922)

Houses, Baggage, and Trains – E. M. Forster’s Howards End

  • Modernism and the Weather: Short stories by Katherine Mansfield and D.H. Lawrence
  • Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth
  • Early Film Culture, and Amateur Film-Making (with reference to H.D. and Bryher)
  • Travel and Materiality: Evelyn Waugh’s African Travel
  • Race and Embodied Experience in the Work of Mulk Raj Anand
  • Collecting the Past in the Work of Freud and H.D.
  • Language and Materiality in the Work of Samuel Beckett
  • Books and Libraries in the Work of Virginia Woolf (including reference to Between the Acts

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching22A combination of online seminars, synchronous and asynchronous Q&A, chat forum, and short videoed introduction segments.
Guided independent study33Online study group meetings and preparation
Guided independent study70Seminar preparation (independent)
Guided independent study175Reading, research and essay preparation

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Research Report252500 words1-6, 8-10Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up
Essay755000 words1-6, 8-10Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Research ReportResearch Report1-6, 8-10Referral/Deferral Period
EssayEssay1-6, 8-10Referral/Deferral Period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 50%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of referral will be capped at 50%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Core Reading:

  • Willa Cather, My Antonia , ed. Janet Sharistanian (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008)
  • E.M. Forster, Howards End (Norton Critical Edition)
  • James Joyce, ‘Ithaca’ from Ulysses: The Corrected Text, ed. Hans Walter Gabler (New York: Vintage, 1986).
  • Katherine Mansfield, Selected Stories , ed. Angela Smith (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008)
  • Virginia Woolf, Selected Short Stories , ed. Sandra Kemp (London: Penguin, 2000)
  • Mulk Raj Anand, Untouchable (Penguin, 2014)

Secondary Reading:

  • Brown, Bill. ‘Thing Theory,’ Critical Inquiry 28: 1 (2001), 1-22.
  • Rosalind Krauss, The Originality of the Avant-Garde, MIT Press.
  • Mao, Douglas. Solid Objects: Modernism and the Test of Production (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998).
  • Stewart, Susan. On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1993)

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Key words search

Modernism; material culture

Credit value30
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date

May 2013

Last revision date