When an era seems proud of describing itself as boring and conformist, it's got to be hiding something. In this class, we'll read a wide variety of literature that reveals the chaos beneath the supposedly "square" 1950s. In addition, we'll explore how the literature we call "postmodern" evolved from authors' various responses to the oxymoronic demands of the fifties--demands that they take an unbiased stand, believe the unbelievable, hide in plain sight. Dealing with the demands of the age required new forms of writing: the hip, the Beat, the mass-novel, the Personalist poem, the post-nuclear parable, the anti-novel, the radically open text. We'll use examples of each to discuss exactly what we mean by postmodernism today, and to explore how the legacy of the fifties has influenced the whole second half of the century.
Readings may include works by Allen Ginsberg, Ralph Ellison, Flannery O'Connor, Ray Bradbury, Mary McCarthy, Vladimir Nabokov, Norman Mailer, Jack Kerouac, Grace Metalious, Frank O'Hara, William S. Burroughs, and Mickey Spillane. There will be several short writing assignments and a final exam, and class participation will be greatly encouraged.