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Modern American Literature Post-1945

ENGL 085.401
instructor(s):
TR 10:30-12

This class will explore a wide range of contemporary American fiction and it will situate literary works within the social and historical context of post-WWII American culture. World War II was of course a watershed event in American history, marking the inauguration of a new era of American global domination. This dominance, however, was threatened (or at least perceived to be so) by the Cold War and the specter of communism abroad, and by massive transformations in American society at home. The tremendous affluence of the post-war US economy was based on mass production and consumption, and led to the expansion of the suburbs and the proliferation of leisure and the culture industries. At the same time, the Civil Rights, feminist and anti-war movements, among others, pointed to the underside of that affluence and they profoundly reshaped the structure of American society. The texts we will read all examine the consequences of these changes, raising questions of American national identity, the status of the individual, the changing configurations of the family and community, and constructions of race, gender, class, and sexuality. Authors to be read may include Charles Johnson, Don Delillo, E.L. Doctorow, Ishmael Reed, Toni Morrison, Leslie Marmon Silko, Carolyn Chute, Fae Myenne Ng and Milton Murayama. Requirements will include several short papers and a final exam.