Recent efforts to change the shape and direction of the novel by such writers as Murdoch, Barth, Hawkes, Fowles, and Atwood.
“Simplifying to the extreme, I define postmodern as incredulity toward metanarratives.” Jean-François Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition
“[E]very position on postmodernism in culture—whether apologia or stigmatization—is also at one and the same time, and necessarily, an implicitly or explicitly political stance on the nature of multinational capitalism today.” Fredric Jameson, Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism
“But the fact in most developed societies remains: as an artistic, philosophical, and social phenomenon, postmodernism veers toward open, playful, optative, provisional (open in time as well as in structure or space), disjunctive, or indeterminate forms, a discourse of ironies and fragments, a ‘white ideology’ of absences and fractures, a desire of diffractions, an invocation of complex, articulate silences. Postmodernism veers towards all these yet implies a different, if not antithetical, movement toward pervasive procedures, ubiquitous interactions, immanent codes, media, languages.” Ihab Hassan, “Toward a Concept of Postmodernism”
In this course, we will investigate the ideological and stylistic similarities and contrasts between novels termed postmodern. The texts we will analyze take a variety of forms—print, graphic novel, and hypertext. As we discuss these works, we will consider how contemporary novelists articulate the postmodern and how their ideas parallel and challenge those of selected postmodern theorists. We will also examine how postmodern novels emerge from, shape, and critique contemporary culture. By the end of the course, students will have acquired an understanding of what it means for contemporary culture and texts to be deemed postmodern.
Students in the course work toward several goals: analyzing the contemporary novel through the lens of postmodernism and developing as critical thinkers and writers. Course activities promote active learning, with most class sessions including a mix of mini-lectures, discussion, short writing exercises, and group work. My role is to provide the tools and resources you will need to advance your own thinking and writing. I will pose questions, design activities to help you think through these questions, and respond to your ideas. Your role is to do the hard work—the critical reading, discussion, and writing. You will analyze texts, generate ideas in electronic and face-to-face discussions, develop presentations with your peers, construct written arguments, and respond to feedback on these arguments.
Students need not begin the class with any background in postmodernism or the contemporary novel. However, they should expect to read course texts carefully, participate actively in class discussion, and work through their ideas in writing. Students will be asked to pose, develop and support arguments in their essays. Some experience writing in the humanities will thus be useful.
Class Assignments and Grading
Weekly postings to course discussion board
One group presentation
Grades in English 342 will be computed by points, with 400 points equaling a 4.0, 300 points a 3.0, and so on. If your total falls between grades, I will round up if you score one to five points below the higher grade and round down if you score one to four points above the lower grade. For example, 274 points equals a 2.7 and 275 points a 2.8. Each assignment is worth the following number of points:
* Class Participation: 60 points
* Electronic Postings: 80 points
* Essays: 160 points (80 points each)
* Presentation: 40 points
* Take-Home Final: 60 points