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ENGL 541 A: Contemporary Literature

Periodization after WWII

Meeting Time: 
TTh 1:30pm - 3:20pm
SAV 169
Professor Harkins in front of bookshelf
Gillian Harkins

Additional Details:

This course will ask what it means to create a “survey” of fiction published in the United States after 1945. We will indeed read a group of texts spanning 1945 to 2012 that have been published in the United States, so this course could be construed as a survey of post-1945 U.S. literature.  A primary focus on literary texts is at the heart of this class, and all students will be expected to read closely and carefully and to become conversant in the terms used to describe their method of reading.  But as we read these texts, we will also focus on the criteria and taxonomies through which literary texts are grouped in historical, social, cultural, political, and economic terms.  Our focus will therefore also be on learning how to engage the discipline of literary studies in this period and how to create our own rationales for specific groupings of texts.

Key questions will include: How are literary and cultural movements periodized between 1945 and 2012?  Does it make any sense to teach courses focused on a single national literature in this period?  What is at stake in setting geo-political or territorial boundaries to literary production, and does the nation describe relevant boundaries and conditions?   Do there continue to be key boundaries or conditions that shape literary production or aesthetics?  If so, what are they and how can we use them to organize and explain relations between texts? What methodologies are central to critical work after 1945?  How do you situate reading methods in relation to other modes of literary periodization?  Key periodizing terms under discussion are likely to include the Cold War, postmodernism, multiculturalism, globalization, transnationalism, post-post modernism, and neoliberalism.

Last updated: 
August 4, 2017 - 10:30pm