Prose Fiction

High on Style: Self-Conscious Modernist Prose

Course Description:
The aim of the course is to understand and appreciate different prose forms’ self-conscious use of style. Our study will culminate in early-twentieth century experimental, modernist prose forms obsessed with individuality and singularity. As preparation for understanding these, we will examine a range of different prose styles such as the ornamental, the gothic, the elliptical, the bare, the abstract, the aphoristic etc. to understand the relationship between ornament and essence, form and content. The objective is to provide an in-depth grasp of writing practices and their self-understanding in the context of literary modernism in the twentieth century. The writing focus will enable students to study their own writing process while studying the forms of writing under discussion. We will strive to engage meaningfully with the paradoxical demands of economy and individual style, precise communication and beauty.


Marcel Proust, On Reading Ruskin 

G. K. Chesterton, “The Blue Cross” 

Walter Benjamin, “One-Way Street”

Edgar Allan Poe, “The Black Cat”, “The Tell-Tale Heart”

Anaïs Nin, The Dairy of Anaïs Nin: 1931-34, Volume I (Excerpts)

Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

Muriel Spark, “The Twins”, “The Portobello Road”

Samuel Beckett, “Fizzles 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6”,

Theodor Adorno, Minima Moralia (Excerpts)


A two-page review essay (5 percent); a four-page short analytical essay (10 percent); a one-page proposal abstract for the long paper (10 percent), and a nine-page long research essay (35 percent). In addition, there will be class activities, peer-review sessions, and a take-home final exam (10 percent). Class attendance and participation in class will count for (30) percent of the final grade. Attendance is mandatory.