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Laughing Matters: The Diverse Voices of Black Humor in Postwar American Fiction

ENGL 085.920
instructor(s):
MTWR 1:00-2:35

Although the term "black humor" is often applied to the works of a relatively small group of American writers in the 1960s and 1970s, actually, black humor pervades American fiction after WW II. This course will examine the different regional, racial, and gender voices of black humor in postwar American fiction, comparing and contrasting the ways in which various authors have used this darkly comic and often grotesque mode of writing to address issues of community identity and social change. In essence, what we will do in this course is analyze what these writers laughed at in postwar America and why they laughed at it. The novels, novellas, and short fiction covered will include Flannery O'Connor's "A Good Man is Hard to Find", Joseph Heller's Catch 22, Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49, Ishmael Reed's The Free Lance Pallbearers, Don DeLillo's White Noise, and Kathy Acker's Don Quixote. Course requirements: three essays (approximately 4-6pp), a reading journal, and a mid term exam.