Seminar – The 20th century has been a complete disaster, and the 21st century will likely be even worse. In response to the hopelessness of the the human condition in general, and the prospects for the North American and British male in particular, the contemporary male novelist has been howling angrily for quite some time. This course will examine some of the results, from Roth's Portnoy and Bellow's Herzog to Martin Amis's John Self, taking side trips into the unreliable insanity of Nabokov's Charles Kinbote, the muddled senility of Mordecai Richler's Barney Panofsky and the somewhat quieter desperation of David Gates's Jernigan. We will examine the strategies behind first-person hysteria and contrast with the alternate third- and first-person meshugas of Bruce Wagner's I'll Let You Go. What gives vitality to the male hysterical hero? How should humor be balanced with pathos? Why are so many protagonists (and authors) of Jewish or Anglo extraction? How have early male hysterics given rise to the "hysterical realism" as outlined by critic James Wood? Is the shouting, sweaty male the perfect representation of our disastrous times, or is a dose of sane introspection needed to make sense of the world around us? How does the change from early to late hysterical novels reflect our progress from an entirely male-dominated world to a mostly male-dominated one? Students will write a hysterical short story or essay in response to the texts.
Reading list (in part):
Vladimir Nabokov, Pale Fire
Saul Bellow, Herzog
Philip Roth, Portnoy's Complaint
Martin Amis, Money
David Gates, Jernigan
Mordecai Richler, Barney's Version
Bruce Wagner, I'll Let You Go
See the Writing MFA Program page for all course information and requirements.