Modernism, you’re breaking me.

Modernism is my core literature module for this semester, and I have an essay due for it on the 15th of November, which is killer. A quick explanation of Modernism is that it was (or perhaps still is) a movement….Okay, I can’t give you one because its complex, but you can Google or Wikipedia it.

But, basically we have to write a 2,000 word close reading about the “formal characteristics of modernism and thematic concerns/issues” from our chosen extract, which is 30-40 lines in my case because I’ve chosen to do The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot, which is a poem he wrote. First, of all I hate close readings because they require so much nit-picking, and digging, and clawing at the text, which is really hard with a text like The Waste Land. (If you’ve read it you’ll know why, and if you haven’t read it go read – it’s a poem.) Normally, on other modules for mid-semester essays we’ll chose from a list of essay questions and apply the text to that question, but for close reading you’ve basically you have to think up your title, and argument, and pick your own extract. It’s the extract part that broke me seriously because I did all the tedious thinking I just listed above, and felt like “YES, I can write this”. So I sent my essay outline which was lengthy and detailed to my seminar tutor, and he was like “That’s a great essay outline except the extract can’t be made up of short sections from different parts of the essay to add up to 30-40lines it has to be 40 continual lines of text.” Basically, my intended essay plan because going to discuss the state of the human condition in The Waste Land – that was like my title – and I’d picked out bits of the poem such as the Unreal City (20 lines for this section), the presentation of broken relationships (15 lines for this section), and a part from What the Thunder Said (5 lines for this section), so it all added up to 40 lines. When I got that email I just felt crushed. To be honest, I guess if all us  students could appeal against the lecturers that set the assignment because in the rubric it doesn’t say it has to be 30-40lines of continual text. But I don’t think its worth the hassle, and I know I’m not the only one who misunderstood that part of the assignment.

So, now I’ve changed my essay plan and I’m going to “close read” lines 90-130 from the second part of the poem “A game of chess. Ohhh, mann oh man. I’m not going to outline my essay plan just because it might come up as plagiarism. Modernism is so interesting, but its so hard to grasp. It’s so different what other movements or theories we’ve learnt about. Anyway, I’m so knackered. I’ll leave you with a few lines from The Waste Land, which are my favourites, but because I’m a bad blogger that can’t format some of the lines aren’t going to be presented the way they are on the page, which is a shame. But, Oh well!

A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,

I had not thought death had undone so many. (Lines 63-64)


My nerves are bad tonight. Yes, bad. Stay with me.

“Speak to me. Why do you never speak. Speak

“What are you thinking of? What thinking? What?

“I never know what you are thinking. Think”


I think we are in rats’ alley

Where the dead man lost their bones.


“What is that noise?”

The wind under the door.

“What is that noise now?” What is the wind doing?”

Nothing again nothing.


You know nothing? Do you see nothing? Do you remember

Nothing?” (111-123)


Tell me if any of the lines of the poem I’ve put up  do anything for you? Have you read the poem before?


2 thoughts on “Modernism, you’re breaking me.

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