Loyola University Chicago

John Felice Rome Center

UCLR 100 Interpreting Literature

Fall 2014

UCLR 100: Interpreting Literature

Fall 2014


Dr. Mena Mitrano

Schedule :  Wed. 10:00-12:30 a.m. and 2:00 pm-4:30 p.m.      

Office: 114

Office Hours:  by appointment

Office phone:     ext. 372                                  

Email: mmitrano@luc.edu


Interpreting Literature

(The invention of modernism)



Nina Baym et al., The Norton Anthology of American Literature, 8th edition, vol. D ( W. W. Norton & Company, 2011), ISBN: 978-0393934793

T. S. Eliot,  The Waste Land and Other Writings. Intro. Mary Karr (Modern Library Classics 2002), 

            ISBN: 978-0375759345


Gertrude Stein, Selected Writings of Gertrude Stein. Ed. Carl Van Vechten (Vintage 1990),  ISBN:



Critical materials provided by the instructor


Course description

This year's theme for our UCLR 100 core course in Interpreting Literature is Modernism. Modernism is one of the most exciting key terms in modern culture. Modernism is synonymous with innovation, novelty, and rebellion. The theme has been chosen to keep alive in the students approaching the study of literature the notion of creativity as a strong individual and social drive.

            We will be looking at some of the most charismatic writers thinkers and artists that America has given to the world. Some of them invented modernism by becoming expatriates in Europe; others made their contributions by staying at home. The first group established a tradition of European-American  cultural intimacy that others could not ignore, a fact that will be of particular interest for the students taking this course at the John Felice Center in Rome, a city at the  heart of Europe.

            Modernism will be treated as a cross-historical sensibility spanning from the early twentieth-century to our days. The approach will be interdisciplinary. "Literature" will refer not only to verbal text but will also include various visual materials (paintings, photographs, videos, performance, music).  

            This is a foundational course of literary studies. We will read closely and analyze carefully a variety of texts. prose, poetry, and drama. Students will learn to master key literary and critical term, and explore a variety of core critical approaches to the analysis and interpretation of literature.



Class format and course aim

There will be an emphasis on close reading. We will read and discuss texts in great detail. The aim is to enhance your ability to respond to literature meaningfully and effectively.  You will be encourage to respond in personal, creative, and original ways.

            Class will meet once a week. My lectures will alternate with individual student  presentations. You will be asked to come to class with written notes that you will use as the basis for class discussion. This pattern will reflect the structure of dialogue in general, enabling students to develop intellectual-presentational skills, and to learn the value of open-ended inquiry.



Regular attendance is required. Active class participation is essential in this course. Students will be responsible for active participation in class discussions of the assigned readings. Moreover, each student will be ask to give a presentation on critical materials chosen by the instructor.

            There will be 2 short papers (2-3 pp.), a final production that can be a traditional critical  essay (5-6 pp) or some other kind of alternative  response (photographic portfolio, performance, creative response, musical composition, etc.) to be agreed on with the instructor. There will be a midterm and a final exam.


Grading: Written work: 50%;  exams: 30%;  class participation:  20%.


Learning Outcomes:  By the end of the course students are expected to

  • Have a basic understanding of  U.S. modern literature in a comparative perspective with European cultural movements as well of the renewal of modernist sensibility in contemporary culture; 
  • Master a basic set of  themes, concerns, conflicts, and desires central to modern American imagination which, however, extend their influence also beyond national boundaries and to world literature;


  • Master close reading;


  • Become familiar with and master key literary and critical terms useful to the analysis and interpretation  of a literary text;


  • Learn to discuss literature in meaningful ways, as a process of individual discovery and in relation to other forms of creativity;


  • Perform an effective interpretation of a literary text.





Week 1           Jan 22

Introductory lecture:  The Invention of Modernism


Week 2           Jan 29 (Gertrude Stein 1)

Readings for the day:

Gertrude Stein, from The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (in Selected Writings of Gertrude Stein 1-134)


In-class activity: student presentation and discussion of assigned reading


Week 3           Feb 5--Papal Audience--no class (to be made up)


Week 4           Feb 12 (Gertrude Stein 2)

Readings and visual materials for the day:

Tender Buttons at 100 (1914-2014):

Gertrude Stein, Tender Buttons  (in Selected Writings of Gertrude Stein 459-509)


In-class activity: student reading/performance of Tender Buttons


Week 5           Feb 19 (Gertrude Stein 3)

Readings for the day:

G. Stein, from The Making of Americans  

  Gertrude Stein,  "Picasso" (Selected Writings 333-335)

Picasso, Portrait of Gertrude Stein (1906)

Photographs of G. Stein


In-class: activity: student presentation and discussion of assigned materials

Video clips from Midnight in Paris


Week 6           Feb 26

Paper 1 due (3 pp.)



Week 7           March 5 (T. S. Eliot 1)

Readings for the day:

T. S. Eliot,  "Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,"  "La Figlia Che Piange," "The Waste Land"( in The Waste Land and Other Writings)

In -class activity: Lecture


Week 8           March 12        Spring break


Week 9           March 19  (T. S. Eliot 2)

Paper 2 DUE (3 pp.).

Readings for the day:

T. S. Eliot,  "The Hollow Men," "Journey of the Magi,"  from "Four  Quartets,"

"Tradition and the Individual Talent," "Dante" ( in The Waste Land and Other Writings)

In-class activity: Student presentation and discussion of assigned materials  


Week 10         March 26 (Ezra Pound)

Readings for the day:

Ezra Pound, "To Whistler, American," "Portait d'un Femme," "In a Station of the Metro," "The River-Merchant's Wife: A Letter," "Hugh Selwyn Mauberley (Life and Contacts),"  brief selection from The Cantos (in Norton Anthology)

In-class activity: Lecture


Week 11         April 2 (H. D.)

Proposal for final critical essay or project  due.

Readings for the day:

H. D: (Hilda Dolittle), "Leda," "Fragment 113," "Helen," from "The Walls Do Not Fall" (In Norton Anthology)

In-class activity: student presentation and discussion of assigned materials


Week 12         April 9 (Langston Hughes)

Readings for the day:   

Langston Hughes, all poem included in The Norton Anthology (871-880)

Modernist Manifestos

In-class activity: Part lecture, part discussion


Week 13         April 16 (Wallace Stevens)

Readings for the day:   

Wallace Stevens, all the poems included in The Norton Anthology (283-295)

In-class activity: Part lecture, part discussion


Week 14         April 23

Pre-exam review


Week 15         April 30