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Martin Kevorkian, Chair CAL 226, Mailcode B5000, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-4991

Fall 2008

E 314J • Literature and Film

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
34440 MWF
9:00 AM-10:00 AM

Course Description

Computer-assisted instruction

A character from Don DeLillo's 1982 novel The Names claims "The twentieth century is on film. It's the filmed century. You have to ask yourself if there's anything about us more important than the fact that we're constantly on film, constantly watching ourselves." Film thus suggests a sort of self-reflexivity, a culture watching itself as a series of images. According to Fredric Jameson, the image culture that flourishes in the latter half of the twentieth century creates a general "depthlessness" that has serious implications for understandings of identity and community. Although some artists have celebrated this situation, many authors and directors have consciously worked against this "depthlessness" to reclaim the novel and the film as media capable of embodying deeper meaning.

Not surprisingly, many authors and directors of the "filmed century" have focused on Hollywood, the center of our image culture and the ultimate destination for the American dream and American individualism. In this variant of E 314J, we will examine a range of texts that take on Hollywood and/or America's film and image culture generally. These texts will allow the class to address a range of questions: Why has Hollywood captured the American imagination so strongly over the last century? How has film affected literature? To what degree has literature affected film? Can the same methods be used to approach literature and film?

Grading Policy

Grades will be determined by a series of writing assignments and a final conference.
- 6 short responses (1 page): 30%
- 3 papers (4-6 pages): 20% each
- Final conference: 10%


We will read and watch a number of primary texts including Nathanael West's The Day of the Locust, William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying, Raymond Carver's The Big Sleep, Don DeLillo's Americana, the Coen brothers' The Big Lebowski and Barton Fink, and David Lynch's Mulholland Drive. We will also have a course packet with secondary readings.


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