English 250

Research Seminar: How It Strikes a Contemporary: Reading the Novel in the 21st Century

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
3 Spring 2016 Snyder, Katherine
Snyder, Katie
Thurs. 3:30-6:30 186 Barrows

Book List

Adichie, Chimamanda: Americanah; Atwood, Margaret: Oryx and Crake; Coetzee, J.M.: Slow Man; Cole, Teju: Open City; Egan, Jennifer: A Visit From the Goon Squad; Hamid, Mohsin: The Reluctant Fundamentalist; Ishiguro, Kazuo: Never Let Me Go; Lahiri, Jhumpa: The Namesake; McCarthy, Cormac: The Road; McCarthy, Tom: Satin Island; Sebald, W.G.: Austerlitz; Whitehead, Colson: Zone One


As a generic term, the “novel” has always been entangled with the new, the up-to-the-moment, the contemporary. If the weft of the genre of the novel is fiction, then its warp is modernity. So what might distinguish our own contemporary novels from novels of earlier historical moments that have also viewed themselves as distinctly modern? In this seminar, we will read a selection of novels published in the 21st century, asking not only “what is the contemporary?” but a related question of scale and duration: “when is the contemporary?” Along with open questions of temporality and periodization, we will consider an array of topics that inform contemporary novelistic, critical, and theoretical writings: (post) apocalypse and futurity; globalization and world literature; neoliberalism and risk; terror and trauma; digital technologies and information networks; postmodernism, post-postmodernism, and meta-modernism; hysterical realism and national allegory; the neuro-novel and cli(mate)-fi(ction); MFA style and genre fiction. Rather than attempting to develop a unified field theory of the contemporary, we will draw selectively from this laundry list of perspectives to see what they can do for us as readers of the contemporary novel at the present time.

The book list for the course is provisional, subject to revision by the instructor and by participants in the seminar. 

This course satisfies the Group 5 (20th[- 21st-] Century) requirement.

Other Recent Sections of This Course

Back to Semester List