Course Number: Course Title

ENGL 520: Postwar postmodernism
Gary Lee Stonum
Office hours: W 2 – 4 pm and by appt. | Office: 315 Guilford
Updated February 21, 2006
During the first three or so decades after World War Two a group of mostly male,
mostly native-born, and nearly all college-educated novelists and story writers
produced the first cultural artifacts widely regarded as somehow “postmodern.” In
this course we will read some of their main works, partly in the context of larger
cultural doings in the United States and in the West at the same time and partly in the
context of ideas about postmodernism that have emerged during these years and
In part our goal is to define the characteristics and assess the value of this fiction and
also to explore its place within what, for shorthand, will be called Cold War culture.
However, the course is meant as a research seminar and so will also be driven by the
interests of those participating. Readings for the last part of the course will get
hence determined by the group collectively, out of such possibilities as other
postmodern writers (Joseph McElroy, Gilbert Sorrentino, Angela Carter, Kathy
Acker, John Barth, Robert Coover, and a cast of ones); other writings by our initial
group, other literary trends of the same period (postmodern verse, the Beats, the rise
of Jewish and African-American literature, the Latin American boom, the continuing
influence of late modernism, 1960s new journalism, etc.), and the place of American
literary culture in international contexts.
Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow, (Penguin 0140188592
Steven Connor, Postmodernist Culture, (Blackwell, 2nd ed., 06312005250)
Vladimir Nabokov, Pale Fire, (Vintage 0679723420)
Donald Barthelme, The Dead Father, (Farrar, Straus 374529256)
Don DeLillo, White Noise, (Penguin, Viking Critical Edition 0140174987)
Ishmael Reed, Mumbo Jumbo, (Scribner's 0684824779)
Added texts
John Barth, Chimera, (Houghton Mifflin 0-618-13170-1)
John Updike, Rabbit, Run, (Random House 0-449-91165-9)
Kathy Acker, Blood and Guts in High School, (Grove Press 0-8021-3193-X)
Assignments and
grading policy:
Criticism report: 4-5 page summary of one of the following works: Charles
Caramello, Silverless Mirrors; Linda Hutcheon, Poetics of Postmodernism. Brian
McHale, Postmodernist Fiction, Patricia Waugh, Metafiction, Ihab Hassan, The
Dismemberment of Orpheus, Allen Thiher, Words in Reflection, or other
approved text.
Theory report: 4-5 page summary of one of the following works: J.-F. Lyotard, The
Postmodern Condition; Frederic Jameson, The Postmodern Condition
(selections:) or 1997 Verso edition of Jameson on Postmodernism, Jean
Baudrillard, Simulations, Richard Rorty, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature or
Consequences of Pragmatism, Linda Nicholson. ed., Feminism/Postmodernism,
or other approved text
Final paper: 14-25 page paper, in research article format and appropriate for
submission to a scholarly journal, with appropriate MLA citations, on any topic
deriving from the course.
The Schedule
Act I
Week One
Reading assignments and
lecture/discussion topics
W Jan 18
Gravity’s Rainbow, part 1 (to p.
intro to course, overview of
postwar/Cold War literary
culture and of ideas about the
W Jan 25
Gravity’s Rainbow, parts
2,3,and 4
W Feb 1
Continue Gravity’s Rainbow
What’s due, besides the reading
Week Two
Week Three
Recommended: chapters 3, 5,
Connor’s Postmodern Culture,
chapters 1, 2, 4, 6, 7, and 8
and 9 in Connor
Week Four
W Feb 8
Pale Fire
W Feb 15
The Dead Father
Week Five
Week Six
W Feb 22
reports on criticism about
postmodern fiction
Week Seven
W Mar 1
Week Eight
White Noise
Mumbo Jumbo
W Mar 8
Spring Break, Mar 13-17
Week Nine
W Mar 22
Week Ten
W Mar 29
Week Eleven
reports on theories of
W Apr 5
Rabbit, Run
Week Twelve
W Apr 12
paper proposals due on roundtable
by 10 am
Week Thirteen
W Apr 19
Blood and Guts in High School
W Apr 26
selected short fiction, to be
Week Fourteen
Week Fifteen
Week Sixteen
W May 1
drafts of final paper due in multiple
F May 3
paper workshops
Thursday, May 9, final paper and all rewrites due at 12 noon; roundtable closes