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Level 7

7AASM066 Unsettled Modernities: Tales of the Untameable in the South Atlantic World

Credit value: 20 credits
Module tutors: Dr Felipe Correa and Dr Daniel Mandur Thomaz
Assessment: One 5000 word essay (100%)
Teaching pattern: two hours per week

Reassessment: Students are reassessed in the failed elements of assessment and by the same methods as the first attempt

All primary texts are available in English. No knowledge of Spanish or Portuguese is required.

This module examines the experience of modernity in the period between 1880 and 1930 focusing on how it has been perceived and represented by those who have lived it ambivalently: through and beyond the European and Anglo-American framework.

By discussing a range of fictional and non-fictional texts that explore the frontiers of Western modernity, students will engage with critical positions and perceptions regarding ideas such as civilisation, progress, technology, nationalism, freedom, industrialization, mass society, and travel.

A key focus will be the way in which consciousness of the modern experience has been articulated through comparisons between the city and countryside. The module will explore this idea through narratives that navigate between the two settings, such as travel writing, diaries, novels, poems and chronicles, examining how these representations become central symbols for conceptualizing the social and economic changes and tensions associated with modernity.

Themes for discussion might include the formation of mass society and urban life; the city and its otherness; the modern Woman; the dangers of sexuality; fin de siècle cultural decadence; the modern sensitivity; the predominance of scientific discourse; and the ideas of nationhood, civilization and wilderness in countries such as Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Cuba, and Angola.

Educational aims and objectives

By challenging the common centre-margin paradigm of modernity, this broad-ranging and comparative module aims to trace interconnections between different perceptions of modernity in narratives produced in and/or about Latin America and West Africa in the period between 1880 and 1930.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the module, student will acquire skills, knowledge and

understanding appropriate to credit level 7, and in particular will be able to:

  • Situate and critically analyse the emergence of the modern experience and its representations in selected contexts of Latin American and West Africa;
  • Demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of advanced scholarship related to modernity in the fin de siècle period;
  • Analyse texts comparatively and discuss them from a theoretical and critical perspective, taking into consideration the historical, political, and social contexts in which they were produced and to which they respond;
  • Effectively discuss, examine and challenge conventional definitions and classifications related to modernity, modernism and modernisation;

Demonstrate the ability to conduct independent, original research and organised inquiry, using academic resources, in order to produce sustained pieces of work for assessment.

Core texts

  • José Asunción Silva, After-Dinner Conversation: The Diary of a Decadent, 1925
  • Jose Eustacio Rivera. The Vortex, 1924
  • Jose Marti. Selected Writings, 1870-1895
  • Euclides da Cunha. Backlands: The Canudos Campaign, 1902
  • Roger Casement. The Amazon Journal, 1910
  • Theodore Roosevelt. Through the Brazilian Wilderness, 1913
  • Mary Kingsley. Travels in West Africa, 1897

The modules run in each academic year are subject to change in line with staff availability and student demand so there is no guarantee every module will run. Module descriptions and information may vary depending between years.

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