L358 26010 TWENTIETH-CENTURY AMERICAN FICTION
1:00p-2:15p TR (30 students) 3 cr. A&H.
TOPIC: "Minds of Modernism"
This course will focus on the changing representations of human consciousness in American fiction through the twentieth century. The Romantic notion of an essential, stable, autonomous consciousness took a beating during this period from new theories in philosophy and psychology about what consciousness is made of and how it is affected by the world around it. Human consciousness was determined by economic forces, or rooted in the uncontrollable desires of the unconscious; some Americans had a double- consciousness; consciousness was understood as a stream, or as a product of language. Indeed, the evolution of twentieth century Western thought arguably embodies a journey toward the death of consciousness altogether. Yet during the same period, the individual was being heralded as an end in him- or herself: the self- reliant, self-made American. We will explore how these contradictory forces richly manifest themselves in the formal experimentation of modern texts, in the fictional minds we encounter there, and in our own (post?)modern minds. Throughout the course, our study will be supplemented by theorists who effected and explored the transformations of modern consciousness in the twentieth century, such as Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, William James, W.E.B. Dubois, Simone de Beauvoir, Michel Foucault, and Frederic Jameson.
Texts will likely include the following: William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury; Gertrude Stein, “Melanctha”; Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God; Nella Larsen, Passing; F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby; John Updike, Rabbit, Run; Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49; Don DeLillo, Americana; and short fiction by Theodore Dreiser, Flannery O’Connor, Katherine Anne Porter, John Barth, and Ronald Sukenick. Assignments will include one short close reading of 3-4 pages, one longer analysis of 6-8 pages, an annotated bibliography and class presentation on the secondary criticism of a text of your choice, unannounced quizzes over course readings, and a final exam.