Course: Literature, History, Modernity

HC 222H

Professor: Louise Bishop

We will consider representations of modern history in literature and, to some degree, in the arts more broadly. We will interrogate the words "modern," "history," and "literature" quite closely. We will also consider the generic constraints affecting poetic, prose, and dramatic (stage and screen) representations of historical events. What makes historical representation interesting? Compelling? Accurate? Meaningful? Truthful? Real? Potential readings include the novel Princess of Cleves (1678) by Madame de Lafayette (originally published anonymously), which re-imagines the court of Henry II of France in the mid-sixteenth century; Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities, about the French Revolution; the play Arcadia by Tom Stoppard which re-imagines the life of Lord Byron and also portrays his (fictional) modern biographers; Michael Frayn's play Copenhagen, which re-imagines the meeting between Nils Bohr and Werner Heisenberg in 1940's Denmark; and The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, which re-imagines the Naxalite political movement in 1960s Kerala, the most southern state in India, and the only state in the world with a freely-elected Communist government. The class may include some film viewings. Requirements include response papers and formal papers, summaries and responses to critical articles, some group work, and a final exam.