20th Century Long List

The PhD Oral Examination

in the

20th Century (Modern Period)


In preparing for the examination, the doctoral candidate has a choice between a concentration on Modernism or a concentration on the Twentieth Century. While the boundaries of the latter are given by the calendar, part of the preparation for the Modernism exam will involve developing arguments for the origins and the end of the period. In both cases, the aim of the exercise is to test the student's ability to interpret individual works and to place authors and texts within the framework of broadly defined movements. The exam stresses British and American literary and intellectual history of the twentieth century, though candidates may want to emphasize different cultural lineages, such as Continental or post-colonial literatures.


The task of building the individual list is itself one of the central acts of preparation. Each candidate must arrange for a faculty member to serve as an examination adviser, and together the two will discuss the range of possibilities and then agree on the proposal to be submitted to the chair of the Twentieth Century area.

In order to respect the great cultural diversity of the period, the committee allows candidates significant flexibility in the construction of the list. Rather than indicate a limited set of approved works, the following long catalogue of authors is intended to serve as the basis for an individual student's proposal, which may indeed depend heavily on names and texts not mentioned below. (Titles as well as authors are given in the suggestions for secondary materials.)


The Novel:
Choose no fewer than 12 novelists, 5 of whom must be represented by more than one work.

  1. Thomas Hardy
  2. Henry James
  3. Joseph Conrad
  4. Edith Wharton
  5. Marcel Proust
  6. Ford Madox Ford
  7. Theodore Dreiser
  8. Gertrude Stein
  9. Sherwood Anderson
  10. John Cowper Powys
  11. Willa Cather
  12. Thomas Mann
  13. James Joyce
  14. Franz Kafka
  15. D. H. Lawrence
  16. E. M. Forster
  17. Virginia Woolf
  18. Nella Larsen
  19. William Faulkner
  20. Radclyffe Hall
  21. Zora Neale Hurston
  22. F. Scott Fitzgerald
  23. Ernest Hemingway
  24. Djuna Barnes
  25. Jean Rhys
  26. John Dos Passos
  27. Jorge Luis Borges
  28. Vladimir Nabokov
  29. Graham Greene
  30. R. K. Narayan
  31. Jean Toomer
  32. Henry Roth
  33. Richard Wright
  34. Patrick White
  35. Ralph Ellison
  36. Flannery O'Connor
  37. Doris Lessing
  38. Samuel Beckett
  39. James Baldwin
  40. Saul Bellow
  41. Malcolm Lowry
  42. Chinua Achebe
  43. V. S. Naipaul
  44. William Burroughs
  45. Italo Calvino
  46. Thomas Pynchon
  47. Don DeLillo
  48. Salman Rushdie
  49. Nadine Gordimer
  50. Toni Morrison
  51. Amitav Ghosh
  52. Alice Walker
  53. J. M. Coetzee
  54. Ishmael Reed
  55. Maxine Hong Kingston
  56. Wilson Harris
  57. Kathy Acker
  58. Cormac McCarthy
  59. Louise Erdrich

Choose no fewer than 12 poets, 5 of whom should be represented by a substantial body of work.

  1. Charles Baudelaire
  2. Stephane Mallarmé
  3. Thomas Hardy
  4. W. B. Yeats
  5. Robert Frost
  6. Rainer Maria Rilke
  7. Rabindranath Tagore
  8. Vladimir Mayakovsky
  9. Wallace Stevens
  10. William Carlos Williams
  11. D. H. Lawrence
  12. Ezra Pound
  13. H. D.
  14. Federigo Garcia Lorca
  15. Marianne Moore
  16. T. S. Eliot
  17. Wilfred Owen
  18. Hart Crane
  19. Pablo Neruda
  20. Langston Hughes
  21. W. B. Auden
  22. Elizabeth Bishop
  23. Robert Hayden
  24. John Berryman
  25. Robert Lowell
  26. Philip Larkin
  27. Allen Ginsberg
  28. Ted Hughes
  29. Sylvia Plath
  30. John Ashbery
  31. Anne Sexton
  32. Seamus Heaney
  33. Adrienne Rich
  34. Gwendolyn Brooks
  35. Derek Walcott
  36. Edward Kamau Brathwaite
  37. A. K. Ramanujan
  38. Louise Bennett

Choose no fewer than 8 playwrights, 4 of whom must be represented by more than one work.

  1. Henrik Ibsen
  2. August Strindberg
  3. Oscar Wilde
  4. George Bernard Shaw
  5. Anton Chekhov
  6. Gerhart Hauptmann
  7. Luigi Pirandello
  8. W. B. Yeats
  9. J. M. Synge
  10. Alfred Jarry
  11. Susan Glaspell
  12. T. S. Eliot
  13. Sean O'Casey
  14. Eugene O'Neill
  15. Federigo Garcia Lorca
  16. Bertolt Brecht
  17. Samuel Beckett
  18. Jean Genet
  19. Tennessee Williams
  20. Eugene Ionesco
  21. Arthur Miller
  22. John Osborne
  23. Edward Albee
  24. Harold Pinter
  25. Wole Soyinka
  26. Lorraine Hansberry
  27. Derek Walcott
  28. Tom Stoppard
  29. Athol Fugard
  30. David Hare
  31. Brian Friel
  32. David Mamet
  33. Sam Shepard
  34. Ntozake Shange
  35. Caryl Churchill
  36. Timberlake Wertenbaker
  37. August Wilson
  38. Anna Devere Smith
  39. Tony Kushner

Modern Thought and Literary Theory:
Choose no fewer than 8 figures, each to be represented by several essays or a book.

  1. Karl Marx
    • The German Ideology
    • The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte
    • selections from Capital
  2. Baudelaire, "The Painter of Modern Life"
  3. Edgar Allan Poe, Essays
  4. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays
  5. Walter Pater, The Renaissance
  6. Friedrich Nietzsche
    • The Birth of Tragedy
    • Beyond Good and Evil
    • Twilight of the Idols
  7. Oscar Wilde, Intentions
  8. William James
    • Pragmatism
    • "The Will to Believe
  9. Sigmund Freud
    • The Interpretation of Dreams
    • Civilization and Its Discontents
  10. Martin Heidegger
    • Being and Time
    • Poetry, Language, Thought
  11. Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism
  12. W. E. B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk
  13. T. S. Eliot
    • "Tradition and the Individual Talent"
    • "The Metaphysical Poets"
  14. Andre Breton, What is Surrealism?
  15. Bertolt Brecht, Brecht on Theatre
  16. Mikhail Bahktin, The Dialogical Imagination
  17. Georges Bataille, Visions of Excess
  18. Walter Benjamin
    • "The Storyteller"
    • "The Author as Producer"
    • "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction"
  19. Jean-Paul Sartre
    • Being and Nothingness
    • Search for a Method
  20. Claude Lévi-Strauss
    • Tristes Tropiques
    • Structural Anthropology
    • The Savage Mind
  21. Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex
  22. Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations
  23. Octavio Paz, The Labyrinth of Solitude
  24. Theodor Adorno, Negative Dialectics
  25. Jacques Lacan, Ecrits
  26. Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth
  27. Roland Barthes
    • Mythologies
    • S/Z
  28. Susan Sontag, Against Interpretation
  29. Aimé Cesaire, Discourse on Colonialism
  30. Michel Foucault
    • Discipline and Punish
    • The Order of Things
  31. Jurgen Habermas, The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity
  32. Julia Kristeva
    • Revolution in Poetic Language
    • Powers of Horror
  33. Jacques Derrida
    • Of Grammatology
    • "Differance"
  34. Fredric Jameson, Postmodernism
  35. Richard Rorty, Contingency, Irony, Solidarity
  36. Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction
  37. Raymond Williams
    • Culture and Society
    • The Politics of Modernism
  38. Paul de Man, Blindness and Insight
  39. Gilles Deleuze, Anti-Oedipus (with Felix Guattari)
  40. Henry Louis Gates, The Signifying Monkey
  41. Judith Butler
    • Gender Trouble
    • The Psychic Life of Power
  42. Slavoj Zizek, The Sublime Object of Ideology
  43. Edward Said, Orientalism
  44. Eve Sedgwick
    • Between Men
    • Novel Gazing
  45. George Landow, ed., Hyper/Text/Theory

Literary and Cultural History:
Choose at least 6 works.

  1. Benstock, Women of the Left Bank
  2. Bhaba, The Location of Culture
  3. Bradbury and McFarlane, Modernism
  4. Felski, The Gender of Modernity
  5. Gates, The Signifying Monkey
  6. Gilbert and Gubar, No Man's Land
  7. Gilroy, The Black Atlantic
  8. Hall, Critical Dialogues in Cultural Studies
  9. Hutchinson, The Harlem Renaissance in Black and White
  10. Huyssen, After the Great Divide
  11. Kenner, The Pound Era
  12. Levenson, A Genealogy of Modernism
  13. Meisel, The Myth of the Modern
  14. Perloff, The Dance of the Intellect
  15. Said, The World, The Text, The Critic
  16. Schwartz, The Matrix of Modernism
  17. Spivak, In Other Worlds
  18. Vendler, The Music of What Happens
  19. Williams, Modernism and Politics
  20. Wilson, Axel's Castle
  21. Michael Levenson, Modernism (2011)
  22. Sianne Ngai, Our Aesthetic Categories (2012)
  23. Rita Felski, The Limits of Critique (2015)
  24. Elizabeth Anker and Rita Felski, eds., Critique and Postcritique (2017)
  25. Toril Moi, Revolution of the Ordinary (2017)