20th Literature

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Universitatea “Petru Maior” Târgu-Mureş DEPARTAMENTUL I.F.R.D.

RAMONA HOSU

TWENTIETH-CENTURY ENGLISH LITERATURE

LITERATURA ENGLEZĂ a SECOLULUI XX

NOTE DE CURS, TEXTE CRITICE ŞI ESEURI

EdiŃie revizuită Pentru uzul studenŃilor 2009-2010

“Look within and life, it seems, is very far from being ‘like this’. Examine for a moment an ordinary mind on an ordinary day. The mind receives a myriad impressions – trivial, fantastic, evanescent, or engraved with the sharpness of steel. From all sides they come, an incessant shower of innumerable atoms; and as they fall, as they shape themselves into the life of Monday or Tuesday, the accent falls differently from of old; the moment of importance came not here but there; so that, if a writer were a free man and not a slave, if he could write what he chose, not what he must, if he could base his work upon his own feeling and not upon convention, there would be no plot, no comedy, no tragedy, no love interest or catastrophe in the accepted style, and perhaps not a single button sewn on as the Bond Street tailors would have it. Life is not a series of gig-lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semitransparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end. Is it not the task of the novelist to convey this varying, this unknown and uncircumscribed spirit, whatever aberration or complexity it may display, with as little mixture of the alien and external as possible? We are not pleading merely for courage and sincerity; we are suggesting that the proper stuff of fiction is a little other than custom would have us believe it.” (Virginia Woolf, ‘Modern Fiction’ in The Common Reader)

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Is our identity inside us, like the kernel of a nut? Most of the perspectives presented in this book are implicitly dedicated to the proposition that personal identity is not inside us. There are two types of argument. The first is that identity is relational, meaning that it is not to be found inside a person but that it inheres in the relations between a person and others. According to this argument, the explanation of a person’s identity must designate the difference between that person and others: it must refer to the inner life of a person but to the system of differences through which individuality is constructed. In other words, personal identity is not really contained in the body at all; it is structured by, or constituted by, difference. The second type of argument is that identity is not within us because it exists only as narrative. By this I mean two things: that the only way to explain who we are is to tell our own story, to select key events which characterise us and organise them according to the formal principles of narrative – to externalise ourselves as if talking of someone else, and for the purposes of selfrepresentation; but also that we learn how to selfnarrate from the outside, from other stories, and particularly through the process of identification with other characters. This gives narration at large the potential to teach us how to conceive of ourselves, what to make of our inner life and how to organise it. (Mark Currie, Postmodern Narrative Theory)

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FOREWORD

In its explication of literary form and text, beginning with Modernism/ Postmodernism and the Visual Arts, the modernist novel to modernist drama, poetry, utopia/ dystopia, construction/ deconstruction of identity, narrative/ narration/ nation, the course presents the relatively more significant twentieth-century English writers who encompassed in their work the Modern and Postmodern Period. The course has ten themes and their reading would induce the reader the impression of having a very precise classification of the representative writers. By means of categorization and classification, the course is meant to surpass mere historical approaches to literature, and to propose certain themes for explication and interpretation of literary texts. The themes...
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