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Mutations: Postmodernism and the Fate of Literature

ENGL 275.301
instructor(s):
TR 3-4:30

There is only one prerequisite for this class: if you have not seen it, go rent The Matrix. This course will explore the very latest chapter in Western (now global) culture, a chapter that is still being written as we speak. Postmodernism, in the most general sense of the term, designates certain movements in art and architecture that emerged in the wake of World War II. For some, postmodernism is a sign of cultural decay, a loss of grand, animating narratives and a slide into relativism; for others, postmodernism represents the loss of "art" itself, as cultural production becomes absorbed--seemingly without remainder--into the economic sphere. For still others, however, postmodernism is simply the only way forward, an anti-art that still retains the performative power of art and its possibility for individual and social transformation. Whether symptom or program, postmodernism is what we see when we look in the mirror today. We will thus ask the question, "What is it, why is it there, and where can it go from here?" Our primary focus will be on the Anglo-American literary scene, as we read Fowles's The French Lieutenant's Woman, Amis's Time's Arrow, DeLillo's White Noise, as well as works by Byatt, Carter, Stoppard, Calvino, Borges, Acker, and Barth. We will look at some representative art and architecture and read theoretical selections from Jameson, Lyotard, Mandel, Venturi, and Debord. Three medium-length essays, occasional quizzes.