English N166

Special Topics: The U.S. Novel Since 1945: Authors and Workers

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Session Course Areas
2 Summer 2016 Bernes, Jasper
TTh 10-12 110 Barrows

Book List

Feinberg, Leslie : Stone Butch Blues ; Himes, Chester: If He Hollers Let Him Go; Vonnegut, Kurt: Player Piano; Whitehead, Colson: Zone One


This course will examine the development of the U.S. novel in light of the profound reorganization of working life since 1945, a process that has involved a massive decline in manufacturing jobs and a corresponding rise in white-collar and service labor, the entry of large numbers of women into the workplace, the digitization of work processes and work methods, and the emergence of new organizational structures and managerial processes, to name just a few salient features of the landscape.

An important question for the writers we survey will concern the relationship between authorial labor and labor in general. To what extent are the skills and techniques necessary for the composition of a novel commensurate with the techniques of industrial, clerical, or in-person service work? What is the relationship between the organizational structure of the postwar workplace and the formal organization of the novel, in terms of plot and narrative point of view? What is the relationship between the set of conventions we associate with “character” and the personalities that workers perform on the job? To help us in our investigation, we will read a few pertinent works of labor sociology and labor history. Students will be required to produce regular reading responses, give presentations, and write two papers, one shorter (4-6 pages), and one longer (7-10 pages).

This course will be taught in Session C, from June 21 to August 11.


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