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Fiction on the Edge of Intelligibility

ENGL 768.301
instructor(s):
M 3-6:00

Neologisms, invented dialects, linguistic and cultural drift, untranslated or untranslatable inclusions, typographical chaos—there are lots of ways for fiction to resist being read. This seminar brings together extreme and limit cases in fiction’s legibility, with an emphasis on works published during the last hundred years. The purpose of the course is threefold: to afford us a chance to read and describe these texts; to survey and assess the critical methodologies that have been brought to bear on them; and to take up why and how to teach them. And a fourth fold: to consider how the parameters of "intelligibility" presume a normative bodymind—one that these works probe or drop by way of "difficult" techniques that we might more fruitfully approach as what Critical Disability Studies scholars call "alternative epistemologies." James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake forms the backbone of the course, with a section of the Wake being paired each week with another reading. Possible pairings include works by Djuna Barnes, Samuel Beckett, Christine Brooke-Rose, Anthony Burgess, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Russell Hoban, William Melvin Kelley, Paul Kingsnorth, Eimear McBride, and Fran Ross.