I am very pleased to announce that I have drawn up a new literature and cultural history course that I am now offering to students. The class is based on Woody Allen’s film Midnight in Paris and is aimed at giving students (of any age) a greater familiarity with the literature, painting, sculpture music and film of the 1920s expatriate community in France.
Here is an abbreviated version of the outline:
Midnight in Paris
(Painting, Photography, Poetry, Literature and Film in the 1920s)
This is a class devoted to learning about and appreciating an unusually rich and controversial era in Western cultural history. Over the course of 8 weeks we will read and view and listen to a wide range of artists from France, Spain and the United States who left an indelible influence in the fields of painting, photography, poetry, literature and film in ways that are still felt to this day.
It is my hope that by the end of the course we will all be able to sit down and watch the film “Midnight in Paris” and easily identify each of the numerous artistic luminaries portrayed in the film. I also hope that the humor and cultural references used to depict these characters in the film will make sense to everyone now having become intimately familiar with their work. I recommend watching the film before class starts and then watching it again at the end. I think you will be pleased at just how much you will have learned!
The materials we will be reading, viewing and listening to is challenging and therefore the only assignment is to do the assigned reading each week. There will be no final paper however if students are interested in doing individual projects I will gladly accept creative projects that are inspired by a particular luminary or artistic movement.
Our class will be discussion based but will be slightly different this time because the works we will be using will involve different media: audio-visual as well as print. I will be responsible for running discussions each week but I come prepared to ask a lot of questions. Again I expect that everyone come fully prepared and very familiar with the assigned reading, listening and viewing. What I am looking for -as always- is a scintillating discussion. I suspect that if we delve into the works assigned that will not be difficult to achieve.
The books, plays, poems and short stories:
Ernest Hemmingway, The Sun Also Rises
Gertrude Stein, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas
Malcolm Cowley, Exile’s Return
Jean Cocteau, Orpheus
F. Scott Fitzgerald, “The Scandal Detectives”
Archibald MacLeish, The Pot of Earth
Note: Music, painting, film clips and photography will be sent to each of you.
Reading & Viewing Schedule:
Week 1: The music of Sidney Bechet and Orpheus by Jean Cocteau
Week 2: The music of Cole Porter and The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemmingway
Week 3: The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein; selected paintings of Pablo
Week 4: The paintings and sculpture of Joan Miró and Amedeo Modigliani; “The Scandal
Detectives” by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Week 5: Selected poems from The Pot of Earth by Archibald MacLeish; selected paintings of
Week 6: “Paris Pilgrimages” in Exiles Return by Malcolm Cowley; “The Love Song of J. Alfred
Prufrock” and “The Waste Land” by T.S. Eliot; the photographs of Man Ray
Week 7: Selected clips from the films of Luis Buñuel; the paintings of Henri Matisse
Week 8: Into La Belle Époque: Paintings and drawings of Toulouse Lautrec, Paul Gaugin
and Edgar Degas; music from Jacques Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Under World.
A note on the availability of our sources:
Works by Hemmingway and Stein are available in the London Library system and through Western Libraries. There is one copy of The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas in the London Library system and Western has four copies. London Library has nine copies of The Sun Also Rises. Western has six copies of Malcolm Cowley’s Exiles Return. There is only one copy of Orpheus available in English at Western. I will procure the copy and then share it with everyone (the challenge will be that each student will need to read it quickly). If you are interested in purchasing Cocteau’s play it can be found at Alibris and Abe Books for a low price (Amazon is much more expensive).
I will provide each student with a pdf copy of Fitzgerald’s “The Scandal Detectives” and I will also send out copies of the poems we will be using. If anyone is interested, Weldon Library at Western has a copy of The Wasteland and the Western archives own a copy of Prufrock and Other Observations for special viewing (but no loans). I recommend both books very highly.
Where painting and photography as well as music and film clips are concerned I will be sending each of you emails with links to the selections I will be using in class. I will also look for books that people can check out for themselves which contain collections of these materials whenever possible. Please feel free at any time to go looking for artistic collections that you feel would be of use to you. The more exposure each student gets to the materials the better!