“So we beat on… boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past”: F. Scott Fitzgerald’s vision of the impossibility of progress came at the close of the Jazz Age and the collapse of the Harlem Renaissance—after a decade that more than any before it had celebrated new technologies and new forms of progress. Radio, movies, records, paperback books—all brought some change, and yet in many ways relations among the races were worse in 1930 than they’d been in 1920. This course explores why by taking on some of the greatest literary achievements of American history, including—besides Gatsby—T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, Langston Hughes’ The Weary Blues, Nella Larsen’s Quicksand, and Williams Carlos Williams’ Spring and All. Students who successfully complete this seminar will receive course credit for ENGL 205 and satisfy one half of the Human Thought and Expression area of inquiry requirement.
Michael Coyle is past president of the T.S. Eliot Society and founding President of the Modernist Studies Association, as well as being a long-time jazz radio DJ.