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Modern/Contemporary Studies: Modernism in Anglo-American Art and Literature


Admission requirements

Not applicable


The interaction between literature and the visual arts, which had already been in existence in antiquity, was a crucial factor in the emergence of Modernism at the beginning of the twentieth century. Painters like Paul Cézanne and Pablo Picasso revolutionized the inherited ways of looking at and depicting reality, and showed writers how to create new forms in literature on the basis of parallels between art and literature. In this course we will study this close connection between Modernist literature and modern art. Thus we will analyze, for example, the link between Cubism and the poetry of William Carlos Williams, the visual qualities of Imagism (such as the work of Hilda Doolittle and Ezra Pound), the appropriation (and criticism) of Futurism by Ezra Pound and Wyndham Lewis in the Vorticist Movement and its publication BLAST, and Wallace Stevens’s attempt at redefining the ancient ‘ut pictura poesis’. We will discuss the work of artists such as Marsden Hartley, Georgia O’Keeffe, Walter Sickert, movements such as Synchromism and Abstract Expressionism, and the criticism of Clive Bell, Roger Fry and Clement Greenberg. We will see how Modernism in the United States and England represent national differences in an international style; how London and New York act as avant-garde centres with its various actors, such as artists, writers, museums, international exhibitions, art dealers, critics, collectors and publishers; how Modernist art and literature was received in art criticism and by ‘the public’; and how the Modernist canon was shaped by the various actors involved. As Modernism was very much an international phenomenon, the examples taken from the Anglo-American context may be compared to similar expressions in other language cultures such as French, Dutch or German. As such, this course may be of interest to anyone with an interest in this particular period.

Course objectives

Students will gain knowledge of, and insight into the process of canonization of modernist art and literature in the United States and England. The course will aim to extend the students’ communicative skills in weekly group discussions. Students will develop their research skills in the writing of a paper on a subject of their own choice within the parameters of the course.


See for schedules of courses and exams timetables

Mode of instruction


Assessment method

Paper/essay (75%); active involvement in class discussion (25%)


For special announcements and required weekly reading

Reading list

Will be announced in September 2012 on Blackboard.


Students are requested to register via the administration system of the university uSis

Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply

Contact information

Please contact the instructors, Dr. Nana Leigh or
Prof dr P Liebregts or contact the Secretary’s office of Study of Art and Literature at Van Wijkplaats 3, E-mail:


For more information consult the website from the Institute for Cultural Disciplines