Lit In English after 1900

This kind of course used to be called a “survey,” meaning
that students were meant to become familiar with a large territory of literary
history by reading bits and pieces of as many of the most important writers as
possible. Challenges to the hierarchies that determined which writers were
“most important” have made the notion of the survey fall out of favor. Nowadays
this kind of course might be better thought of as an orientation. The goal is
still to familiarize students with a large territory of literary history, but
instead of offering a guided tour through the literary monuments, this course
will try to teach students how to navigate the terrain. We will talk about
several different ways to map literary history, using formal, sociological, and
regional frameworks. Students should come out of the course with a sense of
what we mean when we talk about modernism, postmodernism, mass culture,
dominant and subaltern cultures, and postcoloniality. We will also be discussing
canon formation, genre systems, and the emergence of new media. And all along
the way we will concentrate on attentive and appreciative reading of a wide
variety of literary texts.


  • Attendance and participation are mandatory and
    crucial to your success in this course
  • two mid-terms and a final
  • two critical essays of about 1000 words each

Major texts:

  • Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot
  • Philip K. Dick, Ubik
  • Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man
  • Alfred Hitchcock, dir., Rear Window
  • Albert Wendt, Pouliuli
  • Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

Plus selections by W. H. Auden, Elizabeth Bishop, Angela
Carter, Ted Chiang, Bob Dylan, J. M Coetzee, T. S. Eliot, Ngugi wa Thiongo,
Thomas Pynchon, Flannery O’Connor, Gertrude Stein, Wallace Stevens, and others.