L358 24458 TWENTIETH-CENTURY AMERICAN FICTION
Edward Comentale

11:15a-12:30p TR (30 students) 3 cr., A&H.

This course will focus on American fiction as it responds to drastic changes in twentieth-century culture and registers the many promises and pains of an emerging modernity. We will read both modern and postmodern fictions as they address the major upheavals of twentieth- century life, such as the industrial transformation of the South, the demise of vernacular culture and the rise of mass consumerism, the transition from landed property to credit culture, the violence of world war, and battles over civil rights and gender equality. We will also read this fiction as it addresses the impact of these changes on the psychology of the individual and the terms of individual identity, as they dissolve traditional means of belonging and create new and radical forms of selfhood. Relatedly, we will explore this fiction as it marks a revolution in literary form, as it develops new means of description and storytelling (stream-of- consciousness, irony, collage, black humor, citation, etc.) to convey the emotional and psychological complexity of the modern world. Throughout, our reading will be supplemented by other cultural forms - we will look closely at how twentieth-century fiction incorporates and revolutionizes the standard techniques of vaudeville, folk and blues music, pulp fiction, Hollywood film, slapstick, television, and graphic fiction.

Texts will likely include the following: Theodore Dreiser, Sister Carrie; William Faulkner, The Sound and The Fury; Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God; Dashiell Hammett, Red Harvest; Chester Himes, If He Hollers Let Him Go; Jack Kerouac, On The Road; Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49; Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club; Jonathan Lethem, Motherless Brooklyn; George Saunders, CivilWarLand in Bad Decline. Students should expect to write three papers about 5-7 pages each.