The Jazz Age

Course information


The Jazz Age


Kovács Ágnes Zsófia

Course code

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Course description

Short description

The course offers an introduction to US literary production of the 1920s traditionally called the Jazz Age. The 1920s can be characterized by post WW1 hedonistic sentiments and an economic boom ending in the Great Depression in 1928. The Jazz Age is an umbrella term for diverse sorts of intellectual and/or artistic productions between the end of WW1 and the Great Depression: as its name indicates, it is connected to new trends in popular music, but 'jazz' on a more abstract level is present in fine arts and, most importantly for us, in literature as well. F.S. Fitzgerald used the term the jazz age to describe the atmosphere of the decade. At the same time, one should not forget about the major racial revolution of the 20s, the so called Harlem Renaissance or Black Arts Movement. Its major figure, Alain Locke, writes about the way African Americans can change their social position in his "The New Negro." In our readings, we are to trace literary pieces both of Fizgerald's "Jazz age" and of Locke's "New Negro Movement." Eventually, we are to have a glimpse at the broader intellectual context of the age. Readings will include Faulkner, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Yezierska, Cather, Hughes, Larsen, and Hurston.




readings, presentation



Introduction: instructor, course, expectations.

The Jazz Age and its place in American literature and culture.



Scott Fitzgerald "The Ice Palace" "Winter Dreams" "Babylon Revisited" “Echoes of the Jazz Age”;

  • PR Material and spiritual dreams in The Great Gatsby



Ernest Hemingway "Indian Camp" "Mr and Mrs Elliot" "Cat in the Rain" "Hills like White Elephants"(pdf);

  • PR Hemingway’s style and its reception today



Ernest Hemingway For Whom the Bell Tolls A Farewell to Arms

  • PR Gender roles in Hemingway’s “code-hero” stories



William Faulkner "Barn Burning"; The Sound and the Fury (pdf) ch1, ch4

  • PR The (representation of the) Civil War and Reconstruction in Faulkner, Faulkner’s sense of the past with reference to The Sound and the Fury




Willa Cather ("Neighbour Rosicky” and) “Old Mrs. Harris";

  • PR Immigration to the US at the end of the 19th c and its literary representations
  • PR Immigration and Gender representation in Cather’s Obscure Destinies and My Antónia



Anzia Yezierska "America and I" (pdf) “The Lost Beautifulness” “Soap and Water”;

  • PR Immigration to the US in the first half of the 20th c and its literary representations



Zora Neale Hurston “The Gilded Six Bits” and “Sweat”

  • PR African American oral tradition in literature



Zora Neale Hurston Their Eyes Were Watching God (pdf);

  • PR on African American Renaissances (19th c and 20th c)



Langston Hughes "Theme for English B"  "The Weary Blues" "Freedom Train""In Explanation of Our Times" “The Social poet”;

  • PR New Negro Movement as the intellectual background of the Harlem Renaissance



Nella Larsen, Passing; excerpts.

  • PR “Passing” as a theme in African American fiction



Essay tutorial, Presentations

  • History and Politics in the 1920s, relation to literature
  • Fine Arts in the 1920s, relation to literature;
  • Americans in Paris, relation to literature



Roundtable discussion of essays




2018/9 fall


Requirements to get the grade

requirements and evaluation

journals: 30%

presentation: 30 %

end-term seminar paper: 40%



1-50=1, 51-64=2, 65-78=3, 79-90=4, 91-100=5


Reading list

Susan V. Donaldson's Competing Voices: The American Novel, 1865-1914 (NY: Twayne, 1998),

A Companion to American Fiction, 1865-1914, edited by Robert Paul Lamb and G.R. Thompson (Wiley-Blackwell, 2005).

Bradbury, Malcolm. The Modern American Novel. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1992 (1983).


Suggested reading list