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HUM 3275 Contemporary Literature


Course Description

Studies literature since the 1960s, with an emphasis on postmodernism. Includes short stories, plays, poems and novels by John Barth, Donald Bartheleme, John Berryman, D.M. Thomas and others.

Course Objectives

Upon completion of this course, students should be able to

  • Explain trends in postmodernism and metafiction
  • Describe major literary figures and works within the postmodern movement
  • Distinguish a cultural context within which to understand the philosophical, political, and aesthetic impact of postmodernism on contemporary thought and metafiction as a postmodern literary device

Week 1


Lecture: Course Introduction
Lecture: Introduction to Postmodernism

Outcomes

  • Define postmodernism as a cultural phenomenon
  • Distinguish postmodernism from modernism and realism
  • Identify literary techniques associated with postmodernism

Week 2


Lecture: The Novel: Competing Narratives

Outcomes

  • Understand the multi-faceted narrative lines of the novel
  • Identify strategies within the novel associated with postmodernism
  • Articulate how Thomas blends facts with interpretations to question the possibility of realizing any objective reality

Week 3


Lecture Film: Conflating Narratives

Outcomes

  • Define the conflating narrative lines of the film
  • Identify strategies within the film associated with postmodernism
  • Articulate how Lynch disrupts linear narrative, using doubling and parallel story lines to create a circular narrative of indeterminate reality

Week 4


Lecture: The Short Story: Self-Reflexive Fiction 1

Outcomes

  • Define self-reflexive narrative
  • Identify strategies within the story associated with postmodernism
  • Articulate how Barth’s story employs self-reflexivity to expose the tactics of story writing while he tells the story

Week 5


Lecture: The Short Story: Self-Reflexive Fiction 2

Outcomes

  • Define self-reflexive narrative
  • Identify strategies within the story associated with postmodernism
  • Articulate how Bartheleme’s story works in the self-reflexive mode to expose the tactics of story writing while telling the story

Week 6


Lecture: Drama: Capitalism and the Family Unit

Outcomes

  • Define the critical portrait of families portrayed in the plays
  • Identify strategies within the plays associated with postmodernism’s critique of the capitalist model
  • Explain how the plays illustrate the negative effects of capitalism on the traditional family unit

Week 7


Lecture: Poetry: The Crisis of Identity

Outcomes

  • Define the multiple identities present throughout the sequence
    of poems
  • Identify strategies within the poems associated with postmodernism
  • Explain how the poems illustrate the crisis of identity or destabilization implied by postmodernism

Week 8


Lecture: Metafiction

Outcomes

  • Define metafiction as a literary device of postmodernism
  • Identify techniques of metafiction
  • Explain how several works from the syllabus exemplify metafiction

The course description, objectives and learning outcomes are subject to change without notice based on enhancements made to the course. November 2011