Born of a moment when CDs and personal computers were just becoming common and Ronald Reagan was in office, postmodernism as a concept was evolved to explain the way in which large-scale transformations in Western society since the 1960s had in turn transformed the arts.
This module will explore these questions through the work of a specific generation of writers, those born between the late 1950s and the early 70s, who have formed the vanguard of American fiction since the turn of the millennium.
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The aim of this module is to explore some aspects of the constitution and definition of American fiction after postmodernism, particularly in relationship
Knowledge regarding the definition of postmodern American literature and culture Awareness of a range of fiction published in American since the turn of the 21st century and the way it differs formally and thematically from that of earlier periods An understanding of some ways in which transformations in contemporary American culture relate to recent American fiction.
Postmodernist arguments were hugely influential in literary studies, where critics posited that novelists like Thomas Pynchon, Toni Morrison and Don DeLillo had broken with the modernist tradition in key ways—for example, through their investment in popular literary forms—in order to reflect the changed world in which they were writing. For most critics, “postmodern fiction” became the synonymous with contemporary fiction.
In the current moment, however, the most important writing on postmodernism is twenty years old and its bearing on present-day America is increasingly in doubt. From the "War on terror" to Youtube, from globalization to reality TV, 21st-century American culture has transformed in ways that were unimaginable in the late 1980s. For literary critics, these changes raise pressing and complex questions, such as, what relationship exists between new fiction and recent transformations in American economics, politics and media? How are 21st-century novelists imagining and interrogating the changed political and cultural landscape in which they write? What formal and thematic trends make 21st-century fiction unique? If we are no longer living in the era of postmodern fiction, how shall we define the new literary moment?
Authors studied will include some of the following: Michael Chabon, Junot Diaz, Jennifer Egan, Dave Eggers, Jeffrey Eugenides, Jonathan Franzen, Rachel Kushner, Jhumpa Lahiri, Ben Lerner, Jonathan Lethem, Richard Powers, George Saunders, Dana Spiotta, Colson Whitehead, and David Foster Wallace. We will also read a range of non-fiction texts that are being used to conceptualize twenty-first century American culture, in relation to postmodernism and to other contexts.
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DIAZ, JUNOT. This is How You Lose Her (2011). London: Faber, 2013. ISBN: 978-0571294213.
EGAN, JENNIFER. A Visit from the Goon Squad (2010). London: Corsair, 2011. ISBN: 978-1780330969.
EGGERS, DAVE. A Hologram for the King (2012). London: Penguin, 2013. ISBN: 978-0241145869.
POWERS, RICHARD. Generosity (2009). London: Atlantic, 2011. ISBN: 978-1848871274.
SAUNDERS, GEORGE. Pastoralia (2000). London: Bloomsbury, 2001. ISBN: 978-0747553861.
SPIOTTA, DANA. Eat the Document (2006). New York: Scribner, 2006. ISBN: 978-0743273008.
WALLACE, DAVID FOSTER. The Pale King (2011). New York: Penguin, 2012. ISBN: 978-0241962114.
WHITEHEAD, COLSON. Zone One (2011). New York: Vintage, 2012. ISBN: 978-0099570141.
Heise, Ursula K. Postmodern Novels. The Cambridge History of the American Novel. Ed.
Leonard Cassuto. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2011. 964-85.
Wallace, David Foster. E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction. A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments. London: Abacus, 1997. 21-82.