English R1A

Reading and Composition: Time Bandits

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
8 Spring 2007 Ted Martin
TTh 12:30-2 106 Wheeler

Other Readings and Media

"Diana Hacker, Rules for Writers

Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Dictee

Tim O?Brien, Things They Carried

Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse 5

Course reader (with critical essays and some short fiction) "


"The blurb on the back of Robert Coover?s 1977 novel The Public Burning claims that the novel was the ?first major work of contemporary fiction ever to use living historical figures as characters.? But Coover?s novel certainly doesn?t read like history; it is narrated by both Richard Nixon and ?Uncle Sam? (a kind of ghoulish two-hundred-year-old demon who secretly runs America), and in this way it is at the same time rigorously historical and wildly and absurdly fictitious. How can a text so interested in history (and in these ?real historical figures?) so thoroughly undermine our traditional notions of what ?history? actually is?

In this course, we will read a selection of experimental texts from the last forty years that claim to be, in various ways, ?historical??fiction that is set in the context of real historical events, that investigates what it means to be a historiographer, or that claims to be itself (truly or falsely) a ?real? historical document. What happens in a narrative when history is stopped, reversed, or repeated? Are such narratives historical or ahistorical?reliable or unreliable? How might they use the very materials of history to question historical claims about experience, truth, and knowledge?

As we think through these questions alongside a strange and sometimes difficult (always interesting and maybe a little insane) set of contemporary novels, we will learn how to read and respond (and trust our responses) to the estrangement we experience from novels that don?t conform to our narrative expectations. In this way, we will also have the more general (and just-as-important) opportunity to investigate what ?postmodernism? itself might actually be. In addition to the literature, as well as a film or two, we will look briefly at more ?theoretical? accounts of postmodernism and history in order to investigate the interaction between the theoretical and the literary and highlight the role of argumentation in our own work. In bringing together our literary curiosity with more theoretical questions (about history, knowledge, reliability, and representation), this course will emphasize close reading, critical thinking, and critical writing (a lot of it). You will write a number of short essays (and a bunch of drafts) that will focus on both closely analyzing the texts and exploring more broadly the period and concepts of postmodernism as an artistic and cultural form. We will concentrate on crafting specific and sustained arguments that engage and synthesize the novels, the theory, and the history that we?ll be talking, thinking, and writing about. "

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