Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE Contemporary American Narrative

LEVEL 03 - Years 2, 3, 4 in Modular Undergraduate Course




This unit seeks to survey contemporary American narrative within the context of postmodernist criticism and culture.


The unit will review the thematic concerns and narrative techniques apparent in a range of contemporary American novels. It will introduce students to the importance of narratology, postcolonialism, and theories of postmodernism in any critical appraisal of contemporary American fiction. Major influences and trends within contemporary American narratives will be identified, particularly the tensions induced by two occasionally contradictory impulses: the tendency towards sociocultural and sociohistorical commentary, and the interest in formal invention and in the cultivation of ludic multigenericity. This will be done through reference to the work of a range of writers, including John Updike, Saul Bellow and Don deLillo. Reference will be made to a range of novels, including Joseph Heller, Catch-22; Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49; Toni Morrison, Beloved; Don deLillo, White Noise and Point Omega; Annie Proulx, Accordion Crimes; Paul Auster, The Book of Illusions; Cormac McCarthy, The Road.

Reading List

- Bell, Michael Davitt, The Problem of American Realism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993).
- Bilton, Alan, An Introduction to Contemporary American Fiction (New York: New York University Press, 2003).
- Bradbury, Malcolm, The Modern American Novel (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983).
- Chenetier, Marc, Beyond Suspicion: New American Fiction Since 1960, trans. Elizabeth A. Houlding (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996).
- Coale, Samuel, Paradigms of Paranoia: The Culture of Conspiracy in Contemporary American Fiction (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama, 2005).
- Currie, Mark, Postmodern Narrative Theory (London: Macmillan, 1998).
- Elam, Diane, Romancing the Postmodern (London: Routledge, 1992).
- Ermarth, Elizabeth Deeds, Sequel to History: Postmodernism and the Crisis of Representational Time (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992).
- Galloway, David, The Absurd Hero in American Fiction: Updike, Styron, Bellow, Salinger, 2nd edn (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981).
- Hilfer, Tony, American Fiction Since 1940 (London: Longman, 1992).
- Hutcheon, Linda, A Poetics of Postmodernism: History, Theory, Fiction (London: Routledge, 1988).
- Millard, Kenneth, Contemporary American Fiction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000).
- Safer, Elaine B., The Contemporary American Epic: The Novels of Barth, Pynchon, Gaddis, and Kesey (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1989).
- Tanner, Tony, City of Words: American Fiction 1950-1970 (London: Cape, 1971).


Assessment Component/s Assessment Due Resit Availability Weighting
Assignment SEM1 Yes 100%

LECTURER/S Ivan Callus

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