Spring 2015 - Graduate Course Descriptions

Smith, Erin
Discipline and Number
HUSL 6360 Section 501
R Time 7:00 PM - 9:45 PM
Course Title
American Literature Post-1945

Description of Course:

This course is both a historical survey of American literature from 1945 to the present and a critical examination of the creation of cultural value during this period. We will read a selection of books from across the cultural spectrum--literary prize winners, popular middlebrow fiction, and "trash." Where does the canon of modern and contemporary literature come from? How is the category of "literature" constructed, and by whom? How do literary prizes work, and how do they influence what and how we read? What is the role of newspapers and magazines (literary and mass-market) in choosing "good" books? What is the role of the academy? What kinds of influence do Hollywood, television, and celebrities like Oprah wield on what we read and how we read it? How do race, gender/sexuality, and social class frame authors' opportunities and the kinds of stories they tell? Which stories are valued and why?

Required Texts:


Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man (1952)
Patricia Highsmith, Price of Salt (1952)
Sloan Wilson, Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (1955)
Grace Metalious, Peyton Place (1956)
Thomas Pynchon, Crying of Lot 49 (1966)
Norman Mailer, Armies of the Night (1968)
Maxine Hong Kingston, Woman Warrior (1976)
Don DeLillo, White Noise (1985)
Toni Morrison, Beloved (1987)
Oscar Hijuelos, The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love (1989)
Anita Shreve, The Pilot's Wife (An Oprah Book, 1995)
Karen Russell, Swamplandia (2011)
George Saunders, Tenth of December: Stories (2013)

Excerpts from:

Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction
Pascale Casanova, The World Republic of Letters
James F. English, The Economy of Prestige: Prizes, Awards, and the Circulation of Cultural Value
Loren Glass, Authors Inc.: Literary Celebrity in the Modern United States, 1880-1980
Mark McGurl, The Program Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing
Paula Rabinowitz, American Pulp: How Paperbacks Brought Modernism to Main Street
Alan Liu, The Laws of Cool: Knowledge Work and the Culture of Information
Ted Striphas, The Late Age of Print: Everyday Book Culture from Consumerism to Control
Timothy Aubry, Reading as Therapy: What Contemporary Fiction Does for Middle-Class Americans
Jim Collins, Bring on the Books for Everybody: How Literary Culture Became Popular Culture

Course Requirements/Evaluation Criteria:

seminar preparation and participation; class presentation; book review (5 pages); abstract and final conference paper (10-12 pages)

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