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American Literature after 1945: Cultural Critique

ENGL 085.002
instructor(s):
MWF 2

This course conducts a survey of contemporary American fiction that explores stories and histories of repression and oppression in this nation. Some of the questions our texts will provoke are: Is the notion of American identity suffocating or liberaring, exclusive or inclusive? Should our culture value the particular over the universal? Are our differences more compelling than our similarities? Are the cultural debates of our time productive or destructive? What strategies of political resistance and dissent are desirable and/or viable? Does one gain or lose authority by being an "outsider"? And when we look behind the wizard's curtain, what do we discover about who or what determines the answers to these questions? We are likely to read: Leslie Marmon Silko (Ceremony), Toni Morrison (Beloved), Charles Johnson (Middle Passage), William Kennedy (Ironweed), Carolyn Chute (The Beans of Egypt, Maine), Louise Erdrich (Love Medicine), Don DeLillo (White Noise), E.L. Doctorow (Ragtime), Marilynne Robinson (Housekeeping), and short stories by Alan Gurganus and Grace Paley. I aim to provoke as much discussion as possible, so course requirements include conscientious class preparation and attendance, as well as one short paper and one longer one, a quiz-like midterm, and a comprehensive final exam.