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English Literature   >   Modernism: 3. Critical Perspectives

Receptions of Modernism

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Modernism: 3. Critical Perspectives

In this course, Professor Max Saunders (King’s College, London) explores how critical perspectives on modernism have changed over time. In the first module, we think about how modernist literature was received at the time it was created and how it is received today, focussing in particular on the important critical shift signalled by Douglas Mao and Rebecca Walkowitz’ essay ‘The New Modernist Studies’ in 2008. The second module considers how our understanding of modernism as a period in literary history has been expanded chronologically, with a special focus on the ‘late modernism’ of Samuel Beckett. Module three examines how the spatial definition of modernism has evolved to encompass new geographical locations beyond Europe and the US. In module four, we consider how the once predominantly white, male and middle class modernist canon has been expanded to include people of colour, women and working-class writers. The fifth and final module investigates how the conceptual definition of modernism has been relaxed to include forms of writing that had previously been excluded, focussing on the genre of life writing as a prominent example.

Receptions of Modernism

In this module, we think about how modernist works of art and literature have elicited different reactions from their audiences over time. We begin by considering that while modernism may have lost some of its ‘shock value’, it remains current in other aspects. We then consider how the conception of what constitutes ‘official’ literary culture has changed since the modernist period and how modernism itself has been critically redefined in recent years, focussing in particular on Douglas Mao and Rebecca Walkowitz’ essay on ‘The New Modernist Studies’ from 2008.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Saunders, M. (2019, January 31). Modernism: 3. Critical Perspectives - Receptions of Modernism [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Saunders, M. "Modernism: 3. Critical Perspectives – Receptions of Modernism." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 31 Jan 2019,

Image Credits

"Henri Matisse, The Open Window" by Irina, licensed under CC BY 2.0


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Prof. Max Saunders

King's College London