Unknowing: The Work of Modernist Fiction

by Alexander Griswold Cummins Professor of English Literature Philip Weinstein "When and why does western fiction become difficult to read? My lecture takes on this question," Weinstein says. "Modernist writers of unknowing refuse to tell the West's favorite story: that of a hero or heroine moving through trouble and eventually coming to know. I explore how we in the West came to tell that favorite story, why we have cycled and recycled it for over two centuries. Then, around the turn of the last century, a group of thinkers and writers-Proust, Kafka, Faulkner, and Freud among them-worked to reshape our very sense of the human drama. They revised our most commonsensical ways of understanding ourselves in space and time and among others. The aim of the lecture is to explain why they are so difficult to read. No less important, I'll try to persuade my audience that their difficulty is invaluable."