Brief Description of Course: This course will map the Progress of the American Individual as represented in Literature from the latter half of the 20th century up to the present. We will examine the changing nature of “character” in society and how it influenced changes to “characterization” in literature. We will look at social conformity of the 1950s; social protests of the 1960s and 70s; the affluence and decay of the 1980s and 90s; the fearful apprehension of the encroaching naughts; and beyond that, the acknowledgement of terror as an aspect of everyday life. Ultimately, we will consider whether the “grand narratives” of Progress, Truth, Beauty, Justice, and most of all, the “American Dream” set up the Individual for a great Fall, and whether his “denarration” will set him free or merely reveal that he was never “there” in the first place.
Required Reading: Some works we may examine in this course areToni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye (1970); Jay McInerney’s Bright Lights, Big City (1984); Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club (1996); Phillip Roth’s American Pastoral (1997); Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto (2001); Donna Tartt’s The Secret History (1992)
Short stories and poetry, as well as critical and theoretical works, will be posted in Blackboard and/or available via Course Reserves. Short readings will be chosen from:Allen Ginsberg’s Howl and/or AmericaJ.D. Salinger’s “Franny”; John Barth’s “Lost in the Funhouse”; Joan Didion’s “Slouching towards Bethlehem”; Ursula K. Leguin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”; Ray Carver’s “Cathedral”; Douglas Coupland’s Generation X (excerpt); Denis Johnson’s Jesus’ Son (excerpts); Jumpa Lahiri’s “Sexy”
First Three Authors/Texts: Short works by Salinger, Barth, and Carver.
Method of Instruction: Interactive lecture, discussion/participation, group presentation.
Method of Evaluation: May include quizzes, in-class essay, exam, group presentation, essay.