English 100

Junior Seminar: The Fictionalization of the American Sixties and Seventies

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
11 Fall 2006 Richards, Diane
TTh 12:30-2 242 Dwinelle

Other Readings and Media

M. Atwood: The Handmaid�s Tale; D. DeLillo: Libra, Mao II; T. O�Brien: The Things They Carried; Tom Wolfe: The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Radical Chic and Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers; Tobias Wolff: In Pharaoh�s Army. There will also be a photocopied reader containing excerpts from the works of Joan Didion, Todd Gitlin, Ken Kesey, Alice Walker, John Wideman, Norman Mailer, Toni Morrison, and Walter Benjamin, among others; some theoretical material on the novel; and newspaper reportage from the sixties and seventies.


In this course we will examine a number of fictionalized representations of the tumultuous liberal revolutions of the American sixties and the conservative counterrevolutions which brought them full circle by the 1980s. In comparing the ways in which the various texts for the course collapse the distinction between novel and history, we will consider to what degree the extreme nature of American culture of the times particularly lent itself to expression via the so-called non-fiction novel, a literary form which sprang into prominence during this period. In examining the various ways that writers reshaped novelistic form to accommodate their own historical perspectives of a time when fact was more fantastic than fiction, we will read a non-fiction novel, a novelistic dystopia grounded in the events of the sixties and seventies, and three novels which use actual historical events to provide the determinative background for the development of fictional characters. The readings for the course incorporate (to greater or lesser degree) aspects of major historical events, such as the assassination of John Kennedy, the Vietnam War, the hippie counterculture, the feminist and civil rights movements, and the explosion of cult movements which arose in the seventies in response to the liberal excesses of the sixties. We will view selected historical film footage and read from newspapers and magazines of the period. We will conclude the course by viewing Apocalypse Now, Francis Ford Coppola�s classic film on Vietnam , and Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker�s Apocalypse, Eleanor Coppola�s metacritical documentary of the process of creating Apocalypse Now. As we take a new look at the old question of the novel�s relation to history, we will locate the texts for the course in the tradition of post-modernism�s metafictional preoccupations and focus on the new role of the media, especially television news coverage, in creating history in a world of mass communications.

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