In this course we will read the works of major authors classified by the term ˇ§modernˇ¨ and ˇ§postmodernˇ¨ in the twentieth century English literature. You should relax and let the words and images form impression in your minds, not force meaning out of them. In your reading, you might try to assume the mood that Woolf describes in The Mark on the Wall: "I want to think quietly, calmly, spaciously, never to be interrupted, never to have to rise from my chair, to slip easily from one thing to another, without any sense of hostility, or obstacle. I want to sink deeper and deeper, away from the surface, with its hard separate facts" (2. 1989). However, you should be aware that postmodern texts consciously disorient the reader, shaking off the soft blanket of chronological, straightforward storytelling in favor of a harsher, more forbidding narrative style. The reader is led through multiple shifts in consciousness, chronology, and geography, often without a chapter break, let alone a comment like "Fifty years earlier," to guide the way.
Postmodern means so many things to so many people, and it has a slightly different meaning in nearly every discipline, from art and architecture to fashion and technology. For that reason, I'd like to give an overview of what to expect when encountering a postmodern novel or short story, then give a couple of tips on how to read postmodern texts.
First of all, let's examine a few of the most common narrative and stylistic devices found in postmodern texts:
1. Postmodern literature often uses confusing chronology, jumping from one historical period to another and from one character's thoughts to another character's thoughts without any indication at all.
2. In 350 B. C. Aristotle wrote that every story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. With postmodern texts, that's not always the case. Postmodern writers often leave their stories open-ended, with no satisfying conclusion, or the book concludes by making a reference back to the beginning, thereby offering circularity.
3. Postmodern stories and novels often rely on parody or satire, revealing little tolerance for aspects of our culture that typically evoke reverence.
4. The postmodern text, at heart, reveals skepticism about the ability of art to create meaning, about the ability of history to reveal truth, about the ability of language to convey reality. All of that skepticism leads to fragmented, open-ended, self-reflexive stories that are intellectually fascinating but often difficult to grasp on the first read.
The Norton Anthology of English Literature (6th or 7th ed.) Vol. 2.
Woolf: Mrs. Dalloway, Eliot: The Waste Land, etc.
1. Come to class on time with preparation! Lateness and absences are strongly discouraged.
You will automatically fail this course after five absences. Three lates equal one absence.
2. Quizzes will be given whenever necessary.
3. Turn in journals on time. No plagiarism! You will automatically fail this course if you plagiarize.
Reading journals 30% Group presentation 20%
Attendance and group discussion 20% Midterm & Final 40%