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Topics in the 20th Century Novel: The Postmodern Picaresque

ENGL 265.920
instructor(s):
TWR 1-2:35

Fulfills Distributional Course in Arts & Letters

The picaresque, with its ironic subversions and its episodic narration of the lives of losers, misfits, non-conformists, and malcontents emerges as a valorized category in twentieth-century literature. We will define the genre by briefly looking at Apuleius, Cervantes and canonical Spanish picaresques, and then, continuing to post-modern texts, we laugh at the antics of the unconventional protagonist wending his anti-heroic path of satiric destruction through culture; at the same time we are edified by the wide-open critique of society this genre subsumes. Certainly, the surreal world of picaro forms a brilliant stage for the techniques of the post-modern; magic realism, multiple viewpoints, and shifting diegetic context, to name several. Deceptively accessible, the picaresque shapes a vector for examining philosophical problems. Despite such depth, these texts remain readable, hilarious, and user-friendly. In this course, we will look at some contemporary picaresque texts as an introduction to the post-modern. There will be short secondary readings on the post-modern; using them as a dynamic framework, we will examine cinematic treatments of the picaresque such as: Muriel's Wedding, The Blues Brothers, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, The Satyricon, Ghost World, and Magnolia.