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Modern Studies

The term “modern” has been used to express admiration, confusion, or derision in relation to a great range of cultural experiments in literature, art, music, and theater that characterized the period from about 1848 to 1960. Modern artwork was most often marked by stylistic innovations—ruptures in temporal/spatial continuity, the disavowal of linear narrative, the assertion of the new and the abstract. In both form and content, modern art responded to Arthur Rimbaud’s dictum: “It is necessary to be absolutely modern.” Thus modern artworks and the cult of the avant-garde that grew up around them can also be correlated to the historical changes associated with modernity: The development of capitalism and technology, urban life, world wars, imperialism, democratic movements, and the rise of feminism. This concentration offers students the opportunity to consider modern art and its relationship to the forces that produced it in various countries and at different historical moments.


A minimum of 16 credits is required for the concentration, eight of which must be taken in courses at the 300-level or above. Courses used to fulfill the concentration must be drawn from at least two areas of study (e.g., history and literature, or art history and music, or art history and French).


Anthropology 222 CP African Urban Life
Arabic 204 CP Modern Arabic Prose, Poetry, and Politics
Art History 112 History of Photography
Art History 210 CP Impressionism and Japonisme
Art History 211 Picasso’s Art: Erotics and Politics
Art History 212 Theories of Photography
Art History 216 CP African American Art and Thought
French 217 Paris on the Page
French 321 Modern French Theater
French 328T Modern Novel in France
Geography 326 Modern China from the Margins
Linguistics 216m Language and Power
Linguistics 218m Language and Gender
Literature 231 American Drama: Moderns and Contemporaries
Literature 232 Harlem Renaissance
Literature 233 Modern American Fiction: Disturbing the Peace
Literature 257 Modern Drama: From Realism to the Absurd
Literature 259 Writers from Eastern Europe
Literature 260 History, Politics, and the Novel
Literature 261 CP Contemporary African Literature
Literature 304 Kafka and the Kafkan
Literature 310 Modern Poetry: Major Authors
Literature 311 American Modernism: Making it New
Literature 315 Faulkner Seminar: The Sound and the Fury
Literature 319 Theater of the Absurd
Literature 330 The Inklings
Music 217/317 Music Since World War I
Music 218/318 CP Jazz: An American Encounter
Music 229 Music in Film
Music 311 Theory V: Approaches to 20th-Century Music
Politics 225 Modern Political Ideologies
Politics 327 Hope against Hope Marx after Marx
Spanish 211 20th-Century Latin American Short Story
Spanish 212 CP Latin American Novellas: Love and Other Demons
Theater 246 Revolution in the Theater: Acting Chekhov

Recent Senior Theses

Theses that develop from work in this concentration range from studies of particular cultural, historical, theoretical, and political phenomena of the period to creative works inspired by a modernist impulse or in dialogue with modernist ideas. Recent theses in this area include:
“Night Fishing at the Cabaret Voltaire: Four Short and Sweet Nothings on the Negationist Scenario”
“Time and Times Before: A Narrative of Memory and Desire at the Century’s End”
“Technological Ideals in Our Society: A Look at the Unabomber”
“Remedy for the 20th-Century Earache: A Beginner’s Guide to Unpopular Modern Music”
“Portrait of the Artist as a Young Bird: Essays on Synthesizing the Self and the Stolen Signifier”
“The Subject of Discourse, 1875–1900: Language, Revolution, and Male Desire”
“Scenes from the Dangerous Woman: Images of the Femme Fatale During Late 19th-Century Art–With a Personal Exhibit of Woman Redefined”
“The Postmodern S/Hero”
“‘No Damn Cat, No Damn Cradle’: A Musical Response to Kurt Vonnegut”


Asma Abbas, Gabriel Asfar, Nancy Bonvillain, Kathryn Boswell, Christopher Coggins, Brian Conolly, Joan DelPlato, Peter Filkins, Aimee Michel, John Myers, Bernard Rodgers, Mileta Roe, Maryann Tebben, Colette van Kerckvoorde, Laurence Wallach, Nancy Yanoshak
Faculty Contact: Bernard Rodgers