ENGL 556 A: Cultural Studies

Intro to Postmodern

Meeting Time: 
MW 11:30am - 1:20pm
SMI 111
Tom Foster
Tom Foster

Additional Details:

Introduction to Postmodernism

In contrast to the originally posted subtitle for this course, techniques of pastiche and rewriting will be only one of its organizing rubrics, along with metafiction, multiculturalism and the politics of representation in the contemporary period, and cyberpunk/technoculture/posthumanism. This course will serve as an introduction to some of the key critical and theoretical accounts of and developments within postmodern literature and culture, primarily but not exclusively American. We will be reading shorter critical and theoretical pieces, along with primary materials that either function as touchstones for these narratives of postmodernism or allow us to test their claims in new ways.
The readings will be organized to exemplify one or more central concepts or arguments from these critical accounts, possibly including metafiction and the “literature of exhaustion” (Barth); historiographic metafiction (Hutcheon); pastiche (Jameson), rewriting, plagiarism (Acker), textual poaching (Jenkins), or the “ecstasy of influence” (Lethem); the breakdown of high/low distinctions (Jameson, Jenkins); termite art (Farber); the disappearance of metanarratives (Lyotard), especially as that disappearance affects multicultural movements (Omi and Winant); the end of innocence (Flax, Hall); the simulacrum and the ecstasy of communication (Baudrillard); schizophrenia, the fragmentation of subjectivity, or the “death of the individual” (Jameson); time-space compression and postmodern geographies (Harvey); post-industrialism and postmodernism (Hardt and Negri); and posthumanism (Hayles, Wolfe), with some attention to object-oriented ontology or speculative realism (Harman, Bogost). The course will focus on the implications of the shift from modernist projects of “making it new” to postmodern techniques of revision that stress the inescapable conventionality of language and genre, though we will also consider other ways of narrating this historical shift. We will discuss some examples of popular culture (including genre fiction, comics, and TV), where there are traditions of pastiche, fan fiction, and unorthodox practices of collaborative authorship and reader participation, including some that precede the post-World War II period. Assignments will include one shorter essay and a longer, final paper.

In addition to critical essays or book chapters, we will read some selection from the following works (we will read many, but not all, of these works):
Donald Barthelme, Snow White
Joanna Russ, The Female Man
Ishmael Reed, Flight to Canada
Mark Leyner, Et Tu, Babe
Philip José Farmer, Tarzan Alive
Kim Newman, Anno Dracula
Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
Ann Vandermeer, ed. Steampunk III: Steampunk Revolution
Alice Walker, Meridian
Samuel R. Delany, Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand
Bruce Sterling, Distraction
Karen Joy Fowler, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
Short stories by John Barth, David Foster Wallace, George Saunders, Kathy Acker,
Octavia Butler, Guillermo Gómez-Peña, Gerald Vizenor, and some examples of Sherlock Holmes pastiche and the shared-world fiction of H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos

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Other Requirements Met: 
Last updated: 
March 24, 2016 - 11:25am