This course focuses on American fiction of the past 20 years and is, hence, "contemporary" in the narrow sense of the term. Given the astonishing literary productivity of writers in a country the size of the U.S., any course is and must be, by default, punctual and eclectic in its choice of texts, no matter how small a time window. While you can expect to leave the course with a nuanced sense of the current state of American literary narrative, it does and cannot purport to be "inclusive," in however shape and form. Still, that being said, our course does aim for something like "representation" in terms of the broader energies that have, arguably, endowed (some) American fiction with a distinctly transnational or global complexity. Among the topics the course seeks to explore are:
- What are some of the cultural trends, tendencies and energies that have shaped recent American fiction, and continue to shape it?
- What can we make of the boundary oscillations between fact and fiction, and other destabilizing binaries?
- What are the generic (dis)continuities between modernism and postmodernism, and more contemporary literature and culture, broadly conceived?
- What is the relationship between the written presentation of history and, well, fiction?
- How do contemporary writers relate to literary tradition?
- How does ethnicity, gender, and identity enter into the (newer) definition of "American" literature?
- What is the relationship of the print medium, including the virtual print of the internet, to the contemporary media ecology?
Much in keeping with the political and global flavor of (some) contemporary American literature, the class will emphasize multiple critical approaches and expect of students to reach into their theoretical tool boxes on a regular basis. Class sessions will typically alternate between class discussion, student presentations, and occasional short lectures. Thanks for choosing to take this class. Welcome and enjoy!
We need to stop assuming a one-to-one correspondence between the geographic origins of a text and its evolving radius of literary action. We need to stop thinking of national literatures as the linguistic equivalents of territorial maps. - Wai Chee Dimock, "Literature for the Planet"
- Please check CAL PAL regularly for useful links to contemporary American literature sites, as you prepare for class and research your interests. Many of these sites contain numerous other links. You might also find the (rather skeletal) Theory PAL useful on occasion. — As you find additional sites we should all know about, please let us know!