Beyond Literary Landscapes—Individualism

From my early beginnings as a young introvert, the public library has always been a bit of a refuge.  Years later, not much has changed, albeit with an additional affinity for endless hours spent scouring second-hand bookstores to add to my ever-growing “to-read” pile.

From one bookworm to another, this column will be underscoring and outlining various literary genres, authors, and recent reads and can serve as an introduction for those unfamiliar with these works, as a refresher for long-time aficionados, and maybe as an inspiration for readers to share their own suggested topics.  Do you have a topic that you would like covered in this column?  Feel free to contact me for an interview and a feature in an upcoming column.


This week’s column focuses on individualism as a literary theme, especially during the modernist period.

As a literary movement, “[i]nfluenced by worldwide industrialization and the first World War[,] … modernism was an emotional and experimental style of prose and poetry that occurred in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century literature.”

In particular, modernist novels feature individualism, experimentation, multiple perspectives, free verse and non-linear thought, as well as literary devices, such as symbolism and imagery.

Specifically, this type of literature “focuses on the individual, rather than society as a whole … [as] characters … adapt to a changing world, often dealing with difficult circumstances and challenges.”

Authors notable for themes of individualism in their novels include Jack Kerouac, J.  D.  Salinger, and Ayn Rand.


The theme of individualism has been seen in On the Road by Jack Kerouac, The Catcher in the Rye by J.D.  Salinger, and We the Living by Ayn Rand.


These novels are set throughout the United States and Soviet Russia.


These works are set in 20th century.


Individualism, as a literary theme, may be of interest to ENGL students who enjoy modernist works, as well as HIST and POLI students interested in the development of various ideological themes throughout history.


AU’s wide range of diverse courses make it easy to study this topic in depth.  Courses related to the theme of individualism are available in a variety of disciplines, including one’s that may fit into your Degree Works.  (Always check with an AU counsellor to see if these particular courses fulfill your personal graduation requirements!)

AU students interested in learning more about this topic may enroll in HIST 209: A History of the World in the Twentieth Century: I, a junior-level, three-credit course, which “help[s] students to understand the major economic, political, social, scientific, and technological developments in the twentieth century.”  (Although no prerequisites are required for this course, at least one HIST course at the university level is recommended).

Students may also be interested in HIST 235: History of the United States, Civil War to Present, another junior-level, three-credit course, which “focuses on the themes of freedom, domination, resistance and change, and fully engages in a range of subjects pertinent to modern US history.”  (No perquisites are required for this course).  Happy reading!