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

Spring 2009

E 324 • U.S. Fiction Since 1945: Guilt, Innocence, Responsibility

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
34290 TTh
9:30 AM-11:00 AM
PAR 204
Severs, J

Course Description

Restricted to non-English majors.
Only one of the following may be counted unless the topics vary: ANS 320, 361, CHI 361, E 322, 324.
Only one of the following may be counted unless the topics vary: E 324, 370W, 376L, 379M.
May not be counted toward a major in English.

This course surveys U.S. novels and short stories since World War II, focusing on questions of moral responsibility, transgressions large and small, and the effect that structures of guilt and extremity have had on narrative form. Crime and punishment will be topics in a few texts, and the outlaw - child molester, psychopath, murderer, terrorist - will be a central figure. But equally important will be more subtle states of religious innocence, original sin, existential guilt and shame, and the types of writing (not always tragic and grim) to which they lead. The innocent, that figure known as "the American Adam," will be part of this course's deep background, and we will tackle the question of what writers do when they know they come after hundreds of years of writing about such a "type." As the century progresses, the area of moral responsibility American narratives evoke will grow much wider. What are the many things American characters have to feel guilty about and responsible for in an era of globalism, postmodernism, and multiculturalism? How do the power, stability, and prosperity of postwar American lives connect to those killed and displaced by slavery, westward expansion, the Holocaust, and war? Visits to the Harry Ransom Center to see some of their extensive holdings on Mailer, DeLillo, and others will be a fun and important part of this class.

Grading Policy

Participation 15%
Reading quizzes and short close reading assignments 15%
Essay #1 20%
Essay #2 20%
Essay #3 20%


Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita
Saul Bellow, Seize the Day
Norman Mailer, An American Dream
Philip Roth, The Ghost Writer
Toni Morrison, Beloved
Louise Erdrich, Tracks
Don DeLillo, Mao II
Chang-rae Lee, A Gesture Life

Selected short stories by Flannery O'Connor, Carson McCullers, William Gass, John Cheever, Joy Williams, Sandra Cisneros, Charles Johnson, and David Foster Wallace


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