Modern Literature was my least favorite module. Professor Thomas didn't scold me, though. I knew Roald Dahl too well. I was a huge fan of High fantasy. But it was my knowledge in silent films and early talkies that convinced my tutor that I deserved a place in the English Department.
I was a heavy reader, but I was a picky one. I wasn't surprised when I learned that I must read all of D.H. Lawrence's novels. I haven't read a single page when I set foot on the English Department, which didn't worry me. But the reading list was overwhelming. Three weeks were devoted to Joseph Conrad's works. It didn't take me a day to finish "The Secret Agent", as I enjoyed suspense. "Lord Jim" pained me, though. And I could hardly relate to "Heart of Darkness". Nonetheless, this was a requirement that I must meet.
My mother remembered the nude wrestling scene from "Women in Love", which prompted me to read the book. I was quite amused. (Bromance turned out to be as old as time.) Lawrence's books exhausted me. I wasn't sure if I understood where he came from, as I couldn't imagine the author to be an introvert like me. An introvert who wanted adventure.
As I looked through the chronology of the rise (of popularity) of the genre, I noticed how events influenced the likes of Conrad. Just to give a sample:
Citizen Kane. Lawrence might have scratched his head when someone would mention Orson Welles's name. But it wasn't difficult to figure out why his film would be linked to Modern Literature. "Citizen Kane" was ahead of its time, which only a handful were aware of. It wasn't hard to imagine Welles being serious about it, and taking it hard after the unimpressive box-office result. Professor Thomas had a point, as such works won't be appreciated at first. They broke tradition, and the public wasn't receptive to it.
Rules of the Game. Jean Renoir was met with scorn upon the first screening of this comedy of manners. I was impressed when I first saw it. In fact, the French filmmaker would reap endless praise if he filmed his masterpiece in England. Set during the eve of World War II, Renoir depicted the moral callousness of the upper class towards their servants. Most of the authors of Modern Literature were hailed from Great Britain, and English literature could be synonymous with class. Enough said.
Modern Times. Professor Thomas liked my analysis of Charlie Chaplin's films. I wasn't surprised that he would reveal his political views, which wouldn't pleased the establishment. And it wasn't hard to imagine the reason. Comedy could be the best anecdote, but Chaplin saw it differently. Humor was propaganda. Conrad would like it.
If not for the reference to cinema, then I might not have survived Modern Literature. My tutor was my other savior, but I already said enough.