English | Recent Writing
L381 | 1239 | Foster


1:10p-2:25p D (30) 3 cr

This course will be organized around two related topics.  The first is a
recurrent motif in postmodern criticism and theory--that is, the notion
that after World War II the distinction between "high" and "low" art
begins to break down.  The second topic is the result of this blurring of
the boundary between the "literary" and the "popular"--that is, the
emergence of a subgenre of postmodern literature sometimes called
avant-pop.

How fundamental is this boundary confusion?  Does it represent any real
shift in cultural values, or are avant-pop writers simply "slumming" in
popular culture?  What are the effects of rejecting the traditional
distance of high art from popular culture and everyday life?  What is
gained by that rejection, and what is lost?  For example, is avant-pop
writing condemned to reproduce popular stereotypes rather than imagine
alternatives to them?  These are some of the key questions we will
consider in this course.

Our readings will include both critical essays that provide a variety of
different accounts of the breakdown of the distinction between literary
art and popular culture, as well as examples of different varieties of
avant-pop fiction.

Texts for the course will most likely be chosen from this list (we'll read
seven of these books, at most):
Mark Leyner, ET TU, BABE
Ishmael Reed, MUMBO-JUMBO
Kathy Acker, DON QUIXOTE
Don DeLillo, WHITE NOISE
Carole Maso, THE ART LOVER
Jessica Hagedorn, DOGEATERS
Stephen Wright, GOING NATIVE
Douglas Coupland, MICROSERFS
Curtis White, MEMORIES OF MY FATHER WATCHING TV
Robert Olen Butler, TABLOID DREAMS
George Saunders, CIVILWARLAND IN BAD DECLINE
David Shields, REMOTE
William Gibson, NEUROMANCER
Octavia Butler, DAWN
Larry McCaffrey, ed., AFTER YESTERDAY'S CRASH: THE AVANT- POP ANTHOLOGY

Assignments for the course are likely to consist of 2-3 short essays and a
final examination.