Reading Groups

Modernist Literature:

Epics of Diminishment


Led by: Joshua Gaylord


Time: 6 - 7:30 pm


Meets: Every other Thursday, seven sessions


Dates: Sept. 21, Oct. 5, Oct. 19, Nov. 2,
Nov. 16, Nov. 30, Dec. 14


Sign Up:

Members: $150

Nonmembers: $175



Modernism as a cultural movement is steeped both in the glories of radical newness and a heavy sense of sorrow and disillusionment—in beginnings and endings. As sleek cities rise and Victorian sensibilities crumble, the world of the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s (and beyond) promise personal, social, sexual and formal liberation, experimentation and invention at the same time as fears of humanity lost, the dominance of machine and the sickening tread of progress that just may leave everything crushed in its wake. Amid these cultural transformations, we find authors, artists, filmmakers, architects and musicians struggling to make (and unmake) meaning. In this group, we read six classics of “high modernism” and explore the intellectual minefield of this overwrought era. 


The six novels under consideration are Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, James Joyce’s Dubliners, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Djuna Barnes’s Nightwood and Sigmund Freud’s Dora: A Case Study.


Participants do not need to do any reading in preparation for the first session.


Joshua Gaylord graduated from NYU with a Ph.D. in twentieth-century American and British literature, specializing in postmodernism and narrative theory. He has taught courses in literature and film at NYU, the New School and the Ramaz Upper School.  He is the author of four novels, the most recent of which, When We Were Animals, was published by Mulholland Books in April 2015.