Topnav_thin
Loading
SEARCH SITE
Subject:
Publication:
Description   |   Syllabus

PoMo: Exploring the Landscape of Postmodernism
UC Berkeley
Spring 2020

Description



Syllabus

PoMo

Exploring the Landscape of Postmodernism

Spring 2020// English 166 // T, Th 3:30 – 5 // Mulford 240

Mark Danner

 

 

Postmodernism is one of those peculiar words, like "nonfiction," that struggles to define something by what it is not. Or rather, in this case, by what it comes after: Postmodernism was what came after modernism. In this seminar we'll attempt to go beyond that rather empty surmise to the self-regarding, fragmented, multiform, satyric, parodic, pastichey works themselves. That means readings from Borges to Burroughs to Barth and Barthelme, from Calvino to Carter to DeLillo to Heller to Pynchon and Toni Morrison to Whitehead. Others besides, all in the service of answering the nagging questions: What did come after Modernism? How exactly should we think about it? And where oh where did it go?

 

 

Class Requirements This seminar will be a mixture of lectures and discussion, backed up by a large amount of reading, some student presentations and a little writing. The most important requirements are that students

 

*Attend all class sessions

*Keep up with reading and writing assignments

*Participate in discussions

*Deliver one presentation on a subject related to postmodernism

*Complete the final examination

 

A student’s record of attendance and participation in class discussion, together with the quality of his or her writing, will determine the success of our class and contribute the better part of the grade. Students who miss classes will not do well in this course.

 

 

Schedule Note that all classes will meet Tuesdays and Thursdays at 3 pm in Mulford 240.

 

Reading Our primary reading will draw on the classics of postmodernism, both novels and short stories. They are listed below under Required Texts.

     I strongly urge you to obtain these books in your own copies and in the edition specified, either from local bookstores or from online suppliers, so that we will all be “on the same page” and so that you will be able to highlight and annotate them.

     Some excerpts from critical essays collected in the sourcebooks listed below will be distributed as supplemental reading during the semester.

 

 

 

Presentations Students will make one presentation on the theme of the course, with a colleague, in some way tied to the current reading. Use of multimedia and social media during the presentation is strongly encouraged.

 

 

 

Favorite Passages During your reading please make sure to select each one favorite or representative passage that you can offer to the class when called on. These passages should exemplify something about the book or the author that you think is important to the themes of the class – or simply important to you.

 

 

 

Writing Depending on response to the reading there may be an occasional in-class quiz, which will be short “pop” quizzes presented at the beginning of class.

     Each student will complete one short paper on themes raised in the course or a text discussed in it or both. “Short” means two to three pages.

      To bolster the clarity and vigor of your English prose, I strongly suggest studying two works: George Orwell’s essay, “Politics and the English Language” and Strunk and White’s little manual, The Elements of Style.

 

 

 

 

Office Hours I will count on meeting with each of you individually at least once during the term. We will make these appointments on an ad hoc basis. I am best reached via email, at mark@markdanner.com. My offices are Wheeler 229 and North Gate 32. My writing, speaking, biography and other information can be found at my website, markdanner.com.

 

Final Examination The final exam will be made up of questions with short answers whose purpose is to ensure, first, that you have read the books, second, that you have listened to and absorbed the discussions, and third, that you have acquired some mastery over what we have read and discussed together. If you attend class and do the reading you will, with little or no additional preparation, do well on the test.

 

 

Grading Students will be graded on their preparedness and their participation in class, the strength of their presentations and the quality of their written work, as follows:

 

Attendance            30 percent

Participation          30 percent

Writing                  20 percent

Presentation           20 percent

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Required Texts

 

 

Donald Barthelme, Sixty Stories (Penguin, 2003 [first published: 1964 – 79])

 

Jorge Luis Borges, Ficciones (Grove, 1994 [1962] [1941 – 56])

 

William Burroughs, Naked Lunch (Grove, 2013 [1959])

 

Italo Calvino, If on a winter’s night a traveler (Harcourt, 1982 [1979])

 

Angela Carter, The Bloody Chamber (Penguin, 2015 [1979])

 

Don DeLillo, White Noise (Penguin, 2016 [1985])

 

Joseph Heller, Catch-22 (Simon & Schuster, 2011 [1961])

 

David Markson, Wittgenstein’s Mistress (Dalkey, 2006 [1988])

 

Toni Morrison, Beloved (Vintage, 2004 [1987])

 

Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49 (Harper, 2006 [1966])

 

Marilynne Robinson, Housekeeping (Picador, 2004 [1980])

 

Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five (Dial, 1999 [1969])

 

Colson Whitehead, John Henry Days (Anchor, 2002 [2001])

 

 

Recommended Sourcebooks

 

Lawrence Cahoone (ed.), From Modernism to Postmodernism: An Anthology (Blackwell, 2003)

 

Matei Calinescu, Five Faces of Modernity (Duke, 1987)

 

Paula Geyn et al (eds.), Postmodern American Fiction: A Norton Anthology (Norton, 1998)

 

Joseph Natoli and Linda Hutcheon (eds), A Postmodern Reader (SUNY, 1993)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tentative Syllabus

 

Note: Tentative means the schedule may change. Some short essays may be added and particular stories and excerpts specified with page numbers. Stay tuned.

 

 

January 21 – PoMo: An Unending Longing to Define

 

On the many meanings of a big, greasy word. Era, style, philosophy. The question of periodization. Are we in it? Or of it? PoMo and truth: a dip into politics. A few short examples. Borges and the pliability of time. Barthelme and tragedy.

 

Required Reading:  Jorge Luis Borges, “Kafka and his Precursors”

                                Donald Barthelme, “The School”

 

 

January 23 – Borges and the Modern/Postmodern Borderland

 

Finding the seam: when did Modernism become something else? And what exactly was that else? The short story and essay. The story as philosophical problem. The story as intellectual pastiche. What do stories do? On Borges and Barthelme.

 

Required Reading: Jorge Luis Borges, Ficciones (Grove, 1994 [1962] [1941 – 56]), pp. 9 – 65.

                               Ihad Hassan, “Toward a Concept of Postmodernism”                                       homepage.westmont.edu/hoeckley/Readings/Symposium/PDF/201_300/221.pdf

https://fliphtml5.com/djyh/mrsi/basic

 

January 28 – Borges, Barthelme and the Metaphysics of Storytelling

 

What makes a story a story? Theme and enigma. Do we need character? What exactly is realism and what does it do?

 

Jorge Luis Borges, Ficciones (Grove, 1994 [1962] [1941 – 56]), pp. 65 – 174.

Donald Barthelme, Sixty Stories (Penguin, 2003 [1964 – 79]), pp. 1 – 120.

 

 

January 30 – Tragic Cartoons: Donald Barthelme

 

Donald Barthelme, Sixty Stories (Penguin, 2003 [1964 – 79]), pp. 121 – 444, with specific stories to be named.

                     

 

 

 

February 4 – So It Goes: Firebomb Dresden, Napalm Vietnam

 

Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five (Dial, 1999 [1969])

 

 

February 6 – Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five (Dial, 1999 [1969])

 

 

 

February 11 – William Burroughs: Punks, Beats, Drug-Fueled Dreams

 

William Burroughs, Naked Lunch (Grove, 2013 [1959])

 

 

February 13 – William Burroughs, Naked Lunch (Grove, 2013 [1959])

 

 

 

 

 

February 18 – Postmodern Paranoia: Pynchon’s America

 

Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49 (Harper, 2006 [1966])

February 20 – Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49 (Harper, 2006 [1966])

 

 

 

 

 

February 25 – Ouroboros: Calvino’s Self-Consuming Story

 

Italo Calvino, If on a winter’s night a traveler (Harcourt, 1982 [1979])

 

 

February 27 -- Italo Calvino, If on a winter’s night a traveler (Harcourt, 1982 [1979])

 

 

 

 

March 3 – Pastiche, Fairy Tales, Women’s Voices: Carter’s Fables

 

Angela Carter, The Bloody Chamber (Penguin, 2015 [1979])

 

 

March 5 – Angela Carter, The Bloody Chamber (Penguin, 2015 [1979])

 

 

 

 

March 10 – Marilynne Robinson’s Pilgrim Quest

 

Marilynne Robinson, Housekeeping (Picador, 2004 [1980])

 

 

March 12 – Marilynne Robinson, Housekeeping (Picador, 2004 [1980])

 

 

 

 

 

March 24, 26 – Spring Break (No Class: Read Catch-22)

 

 

March 30 – Slapstick of Total War: Heller’s World

 

Joseph Heller, Catch-22 (Simon & Schuster, 2011 [1961])

 

 

April 1 – Joseph Heller, Catch-22 (Simon & Schuster, 2011 [1961])

 

 

 

 

April 7 – Persistence of Airborne Toxic Events: DeLillo’s Prophesy

 

Don DeLillo, White Noise (Penguin, 2016 [1985])

 

 

April 9 – Don DeLillo, White Noise (Penguin, 2016 [1985])

 

 

 

 

April 14 – Unburying History: Toni Morrison

 

Toni Morrison, Beloved (Vintage, 2004 [1987])

 

 

April 16 – Toni Morrison, Beloved (Vintage, 2004 [1987])

 

 

 

 

April 21 – Dystopia or Paranoia? Markson’s Cracked Mirror

 

David Markson, Wittgenstein’s Mistress (Dalkey, 2006 [1988])

 

 

 

April 23 – David Markson, Wittgenstein’s Mistress (Dalkey, 2006 [1988])

 

 

May 5 – Charging Culture’s Theme Park: Colson Whitehead

 

Colson Whitehead, John Henry Days (Anchor, 2002 [2001])

 

 

May 7 – Colson Whitehead, John Henry Days (Anchor, 2002 [2001])

 

 

 

 

May 15 – Final Examination (Short Answers) 7 – 9 pm, location TBA

 

 

 

 

 

Annotated Syllabus

 

 

January 21 – PoMo: An Unending Longing to Define

 

On the many meanings of a big, greasy word. Era, style, philosophy. The question of periodization. Are we in it? Or of it? PoMo and truth: a dip into politics. A few short examples. Borges and the pliability of time. Barthelme and tragedy.

 

Required Reading:  Jorge Luis Borges, “Kafka and his Precursors”

                                Donald Barthelme, “The School”

 

Class Notes:

 

 Class Recording

 

January 23 – Borges and the Modern/Postmodern Borderland

 

Finding the seam: when did Modernism become something else? And what exactly was that else? The short story and essay. The story as philosophical problem. The story as intellectual pastiche. What do stories do? On Borges and Barthelme.

 

Required Reading: Jorge Luis Borges, Ficciones (Grove, 1994 [1962] [1941 – 56]), pp. 9 – 65.

Ihad Hassan, “Toward a Concept of Postmodernism”                            homepage.westmont.edu/hoeckley/Readings/Symposium/PDF/201_300/221.pdf

https://fliphtml5.com/djyh/mrsi/basic


Class Recording

 

January 28 – Borges, Barthelme and the Metaphysics of Storytelling

 

What makes a story a story? Theme and enigma. Do we need character? What exactly is realism and what does it do?

 

Jorge Luis Borges, Ficciones (Grove, 1994 [1962] [1941 – 56]), pp. 65 – 174.

Donald Barthelme, Sixty Stories (Penguin, 2003 [1964 – 79]), pp. 1 – 120.

 

Class Recording

 

January 30 – Tragic Cartoons: Donald Barthelme

 

Donald Barthelme, Sixty Stories (Penguin, 2003 [1964 – 79]), pp. 121 – 444, with specific stories to be named.

                     

 

 

 

February 4 – So It Goes: Firebomb Dresden, Napalm Vietnam

 

Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five (Dial, 1999 [1969])

 

 

February 6 – Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five (Dial, 1999 [1969])

 

 

 

February 11 – William Burroughs: Punks, Beats, Drug-Fueled Dreams

 

William Burroughs, Naked Lunch (Grove, 2013 [1959])

 

 

February 13 – William Burroughs, Naked Lunch (Grove, 2013 [1959])

 

 

 

 

 

February 18 – Postmodern Paranoia: Pynchon’s America

 

Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49 (Harper, 2006 [1966])

February 20 – Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49 (Harper, 2006 [1966])

 

 

 

 

 

February 25 – Ouroboros: Calvino’s Self-Consuming Story

 

Italo Calvino, If on a winter’s night a traveler (Harcourt, 1982 [1979])

 

 

February 27 -- Italo Calvino, If on a winter’s night a traveler (Harcourt, 1982 [1979])

 

 

 

 

March 3 – Pastiche, Fairy Tales, Women’s Voices: Carter’s Fables

 

Angela Carter, The Bloody Chamber (Penguin, 2015 [1979])

 

 

March 5 – Angela Carter, The Bloody Chamber (Penguin, 2015 [1979])

 

 

 

 

March 10 – Marilynne Robinson’s Pilgrim Quest

 

Marilynne Robinson, Housekeeping (Picador, 2004 [1980])

 

 

March 12 – Marilynne Robinson, Housekeeping (Picador, 2004 [1980])

 

 

 

 

 

March 24, 26 – Spring Break (No Class: Read Catch-22)

 

 

March 30 – Slapstick of Total War: Heller’s World

 

Joseph Heller, Catch-22 (Simon & Schuster, 2011 [1961])

 

 

April 1 – Joseph Heller, Catch-22 (Simon & Schuster, 2011 [1961])

 

 

 

 

April 7 – Persistence of Airborne Toxic Events: DeLillo’s Prophesy

 

Don DeLillo, White Noise (Penguin, 2016 [1985])

 

 

April 9 – Don DeLillo, White Noise (Penguin, 2016 [1985])

 

 

 

 

April 14 – Unburying History: Toni Morrison

 

Toni Morrison, Beloved (Vintage, 2004 [1987])

 

 

April 16 – Toni Morrison, Beloved (Vintage, 2004 [1987])

 

 

 

 

April 21 – Dystopia or Paranoia? Markson’s Cracked Mirror

 

David Markson, Wittgenstein’s Mistress (Dalkey, 2006 [1988])

 

 

 

April 23 – David Markson, Wittgenstein’s Mistress (Dalkey, 2006 [1988])

 

 

May 5 – Charging Culture’s Theme Park: Colson Whitehead

 

Colson Whitehead, John Henry Days (Anchor, 2002 [2001])

 

 

May 7 – Colson Whitehead, John Henry Days (Anchor, 2002 [2001])

 

 

 

 

May [Date TBD] – Final Examination (Short Answers)

 

 

 

 



© 2020 Mark Danner