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Modern American Literature Post-1940

ENGL 085.401
MWF 2-3

Postmodernism and Race

This class will offer a survey of contemporary American fiction in terms of two of its major developments: the emergence of postmodernism and the irruption into the center of literature from the margins. Rather than see these as opposite directions, however, we will want to explore how various writers do or do not make use of the features and techniques of postmodern writing. To this end, we will begin with some of the canonical postmodern texts in order to attempt some definition of what we might consider to be postmodern. In particular, we will want to ask how how these texts address such questions as American national identity, the status of the individual, the changing configurations of the family and community, and constructions of race, gender, class, and sexuality. We will then read a number of texts by writers from marginalized communities that either utilize certain aspects of postmodernism or indicate its gaps and exclusions. Authors to be read may include Don Delillo, Thomas Pynchon, E.L. Doctorow, Ishmael Reed, Toni Morrison, Sherman Alexie, Louise Erdrich, Sandra Cisneros, Carolyn Chute, Jessica Hagedorn, and David Henry Hwang.

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