Lecture – A survey of stories and novels from the 1880s to the present that demonstrate the energy, variety, strengths, and limitations of different kinds of literary fiction in ways that elude such familiar critical categories as realistic, modernist, and postmodernist. Most of these works are marked by a spirited if often troubling interpenetration of private and public, past and present, and high and low rhetoric. Their forms and themes offer many different kinds of intense self-interrogation driven by narrative circumstances. Though the following description uses the familiar critical labels for convenience, in the course we will usually put them aside in order to focus on concrete literary practice.
After a brief tour of some late realistic (or proto-modernist) fiction, we will turn to modernist works and then to novels and stories that exhibit late modernist or postmodernist trickery: the self-conscious play with literary conventions and genres that produces a fiction of artifice, anxiety, and artful dodging.
Introduction and Henry James, The Aspern Papers
Anton Chekhov, selections from The Portable Chekhov
Franz Kafka, The Sons
Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway
Jorge Luis Borges, selections from Collected Fictions
Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man
Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita
Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49
Philip Roth, Portnoy’s Complaint
Donald Barthelme, selections from Sixty Stories
Grace Paley, selections from The Collected Stories
Marguerite Duras, The Lover
Gabriel García Márquez, Chronicle of a Death Foretold
Ben Okri, selections from Stars of the New Curfew
See the Writing MFA Program page for course information and requirements.