Teaching Repertoire:

1. American Generational Novels: From Lost Generation to GenX/BS (spring 1995)

2. Scriptures for a Generation: Reading (in) the American 60s/BS (spring 1998)

3. Lost and Found: The Lost Generation and the Harlem Renaissance/BS (fall 1999)

4. Utopian Writing and Gender/BS (fall 1999)

5. The Theory and History of Meta-fiction/BS (spring 2000)

I Belong to the Beat Generation/BS (fall 2000)

7. Textualized Subjects - Post WWII Cultural History/BS + SHB (spring 2001)

8. 20th C American poetry/BS + SHB (spring 2001)

9. Introduction to the American Short Story - Genre & Profession/BS + SHB (spring 2002)

10. Contemporary Canadian Ironies and Cross-aesthetic Practices/BS (spring 2002)

11. Realists and Meta-realists: Doctorow, Baker, Auster & De Lillo/BS (fall 2002)

12. Postmodern Genres/BS (spring 2003)

13. American Icons/BS (spring 2003; fall 2006)

14. New York in Historiographic Metafiction/BS (spring 2004)

15. Writing California/BS (fall 2004)

16. Scottish Postmodern Fiction/BS (spring 2005)

17. Passing... (fall 2005)

18. Narratives of Disorder - Disorders of Narrative/BS (spring 2006)

19. Scientific Discourses in Literature/BS (fall 2007)

20. Sense and Non-sense/BS + CE (not scheduled)

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1. American Generational Novels: From Lost Generation to GenX/BS - Spring 1995

This course is designed as an 8 week sequence of lectures and workshops. The focus is on the thematic of generations and generationality, as found in selected 20th century American novels.

We shall read the following 4 novels:

Ernest Hemingway: The Sun Also Rises (English title: Fiesta)
Jack Kerouac: On the Road
Bret Easton Ellis: Less Than Zero
Douglas Coupland: Generation X

These texts are readily available in paperback, hopefully also from Centerboghandelen. They are also found in AUB or public libraries.

It will be noted that these novels represent the four main so-called literary generations of the 20th century in North America. We will examine both what is unique for each of these generations: The Lost Generation (Hemingway), The Beat Generation (Kerouac), The Blank Generation (Ellis), and Generation X (Coupland); and what these generations, their writers and their texts have in common.

An introductory lecture will present the idea of generation as a concept within anthropology and cultural studies, the idea of generation as a labelling device in the public and commercial spheres, the semiotics of the sign generation, and the literary history of generations. We will also work with concepts of paratext as a locus for generation markers, and introduce the idea of generationality as one of the great difference discourses of the 20th century. Texts supporting this theoretical framework will be available as a course compendium.

We will then devote two sessions to each of the 4 novels, chronologically as listed, with the exception of Easton Ellis novel which will be dealt with in a single session. These sessions will take the form of workshops rather than lectures, and for each novel the procedure will be as follows: The first session will focus on close readings and thematic analysis of selected portions of text. I will expect student participation and presentations. The second session will focus on narratological and structural and formal aspects of the novel in question. Student participation will here be based on an agenda for analysis provided in advance by me. The Ellis session will cover both thematic and narrative features of that novel.

2. Scriptures for an American Generation: Reading (in) the 1960s/BS - Spring 1998

This course is designed as an 8 week sequence of lectures and workshops. The focus is on readers reading in the 1960s in the USA, that is to say: what did people read, why did they read, and what role did the act of reading certain, shared texts play in the formation and development of the so-called Baby Boom Generation and the 60s movement known as the Counter Culture, the great conglomerate of all dissident youth cultures in the US in this turbulent decade: Hippies, Yippies, Feminists, Environmentalists, Human Rights agitators, New Age Spiritualists, and all other imaginable kinds of deviants from the dominant culture.

The focus will be on the role of the thematic of generations and generationality in sixties readers selection of a sixties canon of texts, or as Philip Beidler calls them, scriptures for a generation. We will use his book as our basic theoretical text:

Philip D. Beidler: Scriptures for a Generation: What We Were Reading in the '60s (University of Georgia Press, Athens & London, 1994)

Copies are available from Centerboghandelen. A master copy has also been provided on the course shelf. The source texts from the 1960s, plus any further readings given as background texts, are available as a compendium, also from Centerboghandelen.

The course will give us the opportunity to read a number of 1960s youth culture classics belonging to several genres or discourse types: poetry, novels, non-fiction (New Journalism, essays (both popular and academic), autobiography, and mystical or religious/New Age texts). The course is designed to give students access to a large array of texts to choose from in their work with projects and papers. Authors include: Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., Timothy Leary, Abbie Hoffman, Carlos Castaneda, Tom Wolfe, Ken Kesey, Kurt Vonnegut, Richard Brautigan, R.D. Laing, Betty Friedan, Germaine Greer.

In two introductory lectures I will present the idea of generationality as a concept within literary and cultural studies, and the semiotics and function of the term generation as a labelling device in the public and commercial spheres. I will also introduce Beidler's reading theory in a cultural studies perspective and present a general theory of types of difference discourses relevant for cultural analysis of texts. We will then devote six sessions to close textual analysis of and cultural perspectives on selected 60s scriptures. These sessions will take the form of workshops rather than lectures, and for each text the procedure will be as follows: The session will focus on close readings and thematic analysis of selected portions of text. I expect student participation and presentations based on an agenda for analysis drawn up in advance by me. I will provide a cultural/reading perspective on each text.

3. Lost and Found: The Lost Generation and the Harlem Renaissance/BS - Fall 1999.

The aim of this course is to investigate two circles of American writers, both operating in the 1920s, both seeking to paradoxically centralize their position in aesthetic production and reception by marginalizing themselves through in-group labelling and self-imposed exile. The circles in question have become known, respectively, as The Lost Generation writers and the Harlem Renaissance writers.

The course will thematize aspects of labelling as they pertain to recognition of writers and their work, for instance in terms of placement in the canon, but aspects of race and gender discourses are also pertinent, as these two circles are rigidly colour divided, and both seem to privilege male writers over female. The course will also investigate the psychogeography involved in these writings, understood as representations of place, for instance the modern city, and images of foreign places, in connection with exile.

We will read several works by representatives of each circle, and attempt to establish some contrapuntal readings across the two circles. The writers represented will include F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Kay Boyle and Gertrude Stein, who have all been associated with the Lost Generation, as well as such writers from the Harlem Renaissance as Jean Toomer, Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston. (Books ordered from Centerbogh. are marked (CB), other texts will be found in a course compendium)


David Levering Lewis (ed.): The Portable Harlem Renaissance Reader (CB)
Zora Neale Hurston: Their Eyes Were Watching God (CB)
Ernest Hemingway: The Sun Also Rises (CB)
F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Great Gatsby (CB)
Gertrude Stein: The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (CB)
L. E. Roses & Randolph (eds.): Harlems Glory: Black Women Writing, 1900 -1950
Kay Boyle: My Next Bride
Kay Boyle & Robert McAlmon: Being Geniuses Together
Steven Watson: The Harlem Renaissance: Hub of African-American Culture, 1920-1930 (CB)
J. Gerald Kennedy: Imagining Paris: Exile, Writing and Am. Identity (CB)
Cory D. Wintz (ed.): The Harlem Renaissance, 1920 - 1940, vol. 1 - 7
Cheryl A Wall: Women of the Harlem Renaisssance
Noel Riley Fitch: Sylvia Beach and the Lost Generation: A History of Literary Paris in the Twenties and Thirties
Malcolm Cowley: Exile's Return

4. Utopian Writing and Gender/BS - Fall 1999.

This course aims to examine the construction of gender positions within a specific literary genre, namely that of the utopian/dystopian novel. The course will trace the history of the genre through the nineteenth and twentieth century with a view to create an understanding of the genre conventions of utopian/dystopian texts, including borderline problems with other recognised types of texts such as travel literature and science fiction/fantasy, and the placement of the texts in a field between the novel and the political tract, with all the attendent literary and aesthetic problems such a placement entails.

Of all the potentially interesting political issues raised in utopian/dystopian writing none has been more persistent than that of gender and sex roles in the postulated alternative society. The course will examine a number of attempts at constructing feminist utopias with a variety of solutions to the problem of gender differences and inequalities. We will try to align some of these positions from the novels with forms of thinking within feminist and queer theory, and other types of post-structuralist thinking.

The main part of the course will be dedicated to a reading of three seminal, or if you prefer, ovular texts within the genre, all American novels from the mid-1970s, which invite a reading of themselves as a block of texts by placing themselves in an interesting transtextual dialogue where they and their authors actively engage with each other through explicit commentary (metatext, f. ex. essays by each of the three authors on their own and the two other writers works), as well as implicit intertextual (allusions) and paratextual means (titles/subtitles etc.).

Primary texts:

Novels (ordered from Centerbogh.):

Joanna Russ, The Female Man
Ursula Le Guin, The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia
Samuel R. Delany, Triton: An Ambiguous Heterotopia

Essays (excerpted in course compendium):

Ursula LeGuin, Dancing at the Edge of the World: Thoughts on Words, Women, Places
Samuel R. Delany, Silent Interviews: On Language, Race, Sex, Science Fiction and Some Comics
Joanna Russ, Writing Like A Woman: Essays

Secondary literature (excerpted in course compendium):

Tom Moylan, Demand the Impossible
Robin Roberts, "Feminist Utopias" in A New Species: Gender and Science in Science Fiction
James Sallis (ed.), Ash of Stars: On the Writing of Samuel R. Delany
Rita Felski, Beyond Feminist Aesthetics: Feminist Literature and Social Change
Sara Mills (ed.), Gendering the Reader
Elaine Showalter (ed.), Speaking of Gender
Stevi Jackson & Sue Scott (eds.), Feminism and Sexuality: A Reader
Annamarie Jagose, Queer Theory: An Introduction

Other utopian/dystopian writings of gender studies interest:

Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Herland
Marge Piercy, Woman on the Edge of Time
Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale
Dorothy Bryant, The Kin of Ata Are Waiting for You
Suzy McKee Charnas, Motherlines
Sally Miller Gearhart, The Wanderground

5. The Theory and History of Metafiction/BS - Spring 2000.

The aim of this course is to trace through literary history what is commonly thought of as a distinctly postmodern feature, namely the use of metafictive devices in prose fiction, breaking the frame of the told, drawing attention to the telling, and thus undermining the status of the text as mimetic representation.

The course will look at theories concerning metafiction, and construct a tentative poetics of metafiction. It will also close-read specific examples of various types of metafiction from various periods, for instance early examples of framing and frame-breaking in narratives (Adam Bede; Jane Eyre); early use of unusual, self-reflexive paratext (Tristram Shandy); more recent forms of metafiction such as historiographic metafiction (Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse Five), specifically the two-tier tale (A.S. Byatt, Possession); or ecriture oriented metafiction: palimpsesting existing tales (Barth, Chimera, Barthelme, Snow White), playing language games (Barthelme, Sixty Stories), paratext-conscious texts (Richard Brautigan, Trout Fishing in America).

Theoretical texts:

Gerard Genette, Paratexts
Patricia Waugh, Metafiction
Mark Currie (ed.), Metafiction
Linda Hutcheon, A Poetics of Postmodernism
Brian McHale, Postmodern Fiction

Primary texts:

Lawrence Sterne, Tristram Shandy (excerpts)
George Eliot, Adam Bede (excerpts)
Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre (excerpts)
Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (excerpts)
Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse Five
Richard Brautigan, Trout Fishing in America
A.S. Byatt, Possession
John Barth, Chimera (excerpts)
Donald Barthelme, Snow White (excerpts)
Donald Barthelme, Sixty Stories (excerpts)

Course plan:

1. The theory and history of metafiction: an introductory lecture

Patricia Waugh:
What is Metafiction and Why are They Saying Such Awful Things About It? (in Mark Currie (ed.) Metafiction);
Robert Scholes: Metafiction (in Mark Currie (ed.): Metafiction)

2. Early meta-devices in prose narratives


Laurence Sterne: The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (excerpt, master copy)
Patricia Waugh: Literary Self-consciousness: Developments, pp. 21-34 (master copy)

3. Historiographic metafiction: Possession

A.S. Byatt: Possession

Linda Hutcheon: Historiographic Metafiction (in Mark Currie (ed.): Metafiction)

4. Historiographic metafiction: Slaughterhouse 5

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.: Slaughterhouse 5, or The Children's Crusade: A Duty-dance with Death

Patricia Waugh: Fictionality and Context, pp. 115-129 (master copy)

5. The author drops in: Barths Chimera

John Barth: from Chimera,
Dunyazadiad (master copy)
John Barth: The Literature of Exhaustion (in Mark Currie (ed.): Metafiction)
Brian McHale: Postmodern Fiction, 13: Authors: Dead and Posthumous

6. Palimpsesting: Snow White

Donald Barthelme: from Snow White (master copy)

Patricia Waugh: Fictionality and Context, pp. 130-149 (master copy)
Gerard Genette: from Palimpsests (master copy)

7. Language games: Bathelmes balloon and other toys

Donald Barthelme:
The Balloon & Games (master copy)
Harold Jaffe: Counter Couture (master copy)
Tom Robbins: Moonlight Whoopie Cushion Sonata (master copy)
Patricia Waugh: Literary Self-consciousness: Developments, pp. 34-48 (master copy)
Brian McHale: Postmodern Fiction, 9: Tropological Worlds

8. Paratexts and intertexts: Brautigans Trout Fishing in America

Richard Brautigan: Trout Fishing in America

Brian McHale: Postmodern Fiction, 12: Worlds on Paper
Gerard Genette: from Paratexts (master copy)

6. I Belong to the Beat Generation/BS - Fall 2000.

This course aims to introduce students to the texts and thoughts of the so-called Beat Generation writers of the 1950s. The texts will be contextualised in various ways to further allow students to explore the cultural, aesthetic and intellectual climate of contemporary North America and Europe, as well as later reception of these authors and their works.

These contexts will include:

Beats and race
Beats and gender
Beats and the avantgarde
Beats and Bohemians
Beats and exile
Beat and Buddhism
Beat cross-aesthetics: music, film and painting
Beat poetics
Beat and auto-biography
Beat and sexual politics
Beat and counter-culture

We will read some of the core-texts of the Beat canon, largely with the aid of three recently compiled readers:

The Viking Portable Library Beat Reader (ed. Ann Charters)
Big Sky Mind: Buddhism and the Beat Generation (ed. Carole Tonkinson)
The Beat Book (ed. Anne Waldman)

Two novels and one collection of poetry will be read in full:

Jack Kerouac, Dharma Bums
William Burroughs, Junky
Allen Ginsberg, Howl and Other Poems

Theory and reference books:

W.T. Lhamon, Jr., Deliberate Speed: The Origins of a Cultural Style In the American 1950s
Steven Watson, The Birth of the Beat Generation: Visionaries, Rebels and Hipsters, 1944-1960

Course plan:


Acts of naming Kerouac, Holmes, Corso
2. Beat poetics Kerouac, Ginsberg, Snyder
Sights and Sounds of the Beat Generation
Screening of The Source
Burroughs: Junkie Beats & drugs
Ginsberg: Howl Beats & madness
6. Kerouac: Dharma Bums Beats & Bhuddism
7. Beat women Joyce Johnson, Hettie Jones, Carolyn Cassady
8. Beat biographies Gerald Nicosia, Ann Charters

7. Textualized Subjects - British and American Post -WWII Cultural history/Team taught with Søren Hattesen Balle, Spring 2001

1. Introduction: WW II as water-shed for cultural lines of dissemination: Mass society, media boom, colonial dismantling, popular culture becoming all-pervasive, self and identity destabilized and potentially fragmented, class consciousness destabilized, youth reaching affluence, etc.. Theory: Kenneth Galbraith, from The Affluent Society

2. Mass culture and mass society: Readings of Frank O'Hara, Richard Penniman. Theory: David Riesmann, from The Lonely Crowd

3. Black & White Negroes, Angry Young Males: Beats, Brits and exiles. Readings of Norman Mailer et al. and Brits, queer and otherwise (Allan Sillitoe from The Loneliness of the Longdistance Runner). Theory fx. Franz Fanon, from Black Faces, White Masks; Raymond Williams, from Culture and Society 1780-1950

4. Metropolitan identities: London and San Francisco swinging. Reading of Brits and Americans from the 60s. Readings of Allen Ginsberg, Bob Dylan, Peter Brook, from The Empty Space etc. Theory: Theodore Roszak, from The Making of a Counter-Culture

5. White riots: punk, race and gender. American and Brit 70s voices. Readings of Angela Carter, Adrienne Rich. Theory fx. Dick Hebdige, from Hiding in the Light; Christopher Lasch, from The Culture of Narcissism

6. Ethnicity and multiculturalism: Spicy Brits and ethnic Americans (80s and on). Readings of Salman Rushdie, Wendy Rose, etc. Theory: Toni Morrison, from Playing in the Dark; Salman Rushdie, "Imaginary Homelands"

8. Introduction to 20th Century American Poetry/Team taught with Søren Hattesen Balle, spring 2001

The aim of this course is threefold. The course will be an introduction to American poetry as a special area of study, provide various approaches to the close reading of lyric poetry, and deal with the question of what constitutes Modernism and Postmodernism in poetry.

American poets are often said to be different from their British or European colleagues. Is there such a thing as “the American difference” in American poetry - something that links American poets to the American land and to American culture? This is a question that is particularly pertinent in connection with Wallace Stevens (1879-1955), one of the poets on whom we shall focus in the course. Another American poet and contemporary with Stevens, T.S. Eliot (1888-1965) left America and settled in England in order to write a poetry that was international in scope, theme and voice. Internationalism in poetry is seen by many critics as a typical characteristic of poetic Modernism. In the course we shall discuss what Modernist poetry is, and what distinguishes it from Postmodernist poetry. If Modernist poetry is international, does that mean that Postmodernist poetry - i.e., poetry after Modernism - is not international, but rather both post-national and post-international? Apart from trying to answer such questions the course will offer a variety of analytic tools relevant to the reading of poetry, just as an introduction to the stylistic features of Modernist and Postmodernist poetry will be given.

The following poets will be included in the course: Wallace Stevens, William Carlos Williams, T.S. Eliot, Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, Robert Lowell, Elisabeth Bishop, Denise Levertov, Allen Ginsberg, John Ashbery, Adrienne Rich, and Audre Lorde

Course plan:

1. Wallace Stevens. Primary texts: The Man on the Dump; Sunday Morning; Of Modern Poetry. Please read the rest of the Heath A2 selection of Stevens poems as background

2. William Carlos Williams & T.S. Eliot. Primary texts: Portrait of a Lady (Williams); Portrait of a Lady (Eliot). Please read the rest of the Williams poems in Heath A2 as background

3. Langston Hughes & Claude McKay. Primary texts: The Negro Speaks of Rivers; The Weary Blues; America (Hughes); The Desolate City; America (McKay)

4. Robert Lowell. Primary texts: For the Union Dead; Waking in the Blue. Please read the other Lowell poems in Heath A2 as background

5. Denise Levertov & Elisabeth Bishop. Primary texts: A Solitude (Levertov); Filling Station (Bishop). Please read the other Levertov and Bishop poems in Heath A2 as background

 6. Allen Ginsberg. Primary texts: Howl; America

7. John Ashbery. Primary texts: As You Come from the Holy Land; Paradoxes and Oxymorons. Please read the other Ashbery texts in Heath A2 as background

8. Adrienne Rich & Audre Lorde. Primary texts: Diving into the Wreck; Not Somewhere Else, But Here; Power (Rich); Power (Lorde)

9. Introduction to the American Short Story/Team taught with Søren Hattesen Balle - Spring 2002

This course is designed particularly for 4th semester students and aims to provide a forum for close reading and interpretation of American short stories from (roughly) the first half of the 20th century.

Writing - genre and profession:

There will be an introductory lecture on the theories of genre in connection with the short story (SHB), as well as some reflections on the profession of short story writer in the USA, which is contingent on the development of magazines and other publication outlets, providing a market and a readership for the professional writer (BS).


The subsequent sessions will be centered each time on one short story (occasionally two), which will give us ample time to analyse structure, characters, themes etc. The course will progress chronologically from the 1920s to the 1960s, but will also establish the 19th century and early 20th century roots of the American short story. Most texts will be available in the Heath A2 anthology; others, plus all secondary literature will be available as a master box set for copying.

Course plan:

1. Genre (SHB); Markets and professionalism (BS)

2. Edith Wharton: “Souls Belated” (Heath A2)

3. Ernest Hemingway: “Hills Like White Elephants” (Heath A2)
Sherwood Anderson: “Death in the Woods” (Heath A2)

4. F. Scott Fitzgerald: “Babylon Revisited” (Heath A2)

5. William Faulkner: “Go Down, Moses” (Master box)
Katherine Anne Porter: “Rope” (Master box)

6. J.D. Salinger: “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” (Master box)

7. Saul Bellow: “Looking for Mr. Green" (Heath A2)

8. John Updike: “Your Lover Just Called” (Master box)

10. Contemporary Canadian Ironies and Cross-aesthetic Practices/BS - Spring 2002

This course focuses on Canadian writing from the contemporary period, roughly 1960 - 1995. The distinctive feature of the writers the course focuses on is their playful attitude to traditional delimitations of genre and mode. Many have practiced cross-aesthetic expression in that they are prose writers and/or poets, plus something else. Leonard Cohen is a novelist and a poet, plus a songwriter/performer, painter and film artist; Douglas Coupland is a novelist, short story writer and essayist, plus a video, film and WWW-artist; Glenn Gould is an accomplished essayist on aesthetics, identity politics and music, plus a world-famous pianist, composer, and a master of radio montage. Others are writers of both literature and scholarly criticism, for instance Margaret Atwood, Robert Kroetsch and Rudy Wiebe. What mandates these contemporary Canadian voices to express themselves across genres and modes? Are they best categorised as Canadian postmodernists? Are there specific Canadian ironies at play in their practices?


Leonard Cohen: Death of a Ladies’ Man (CD/song-cycle)/Death of a Ladys Man (book of poems and prose fragments)/Beautiful Losers (novel)

Douglas Coupland: Life After God (stories)/Polaroids from the Dead (essays)/ www.coupland.com (website)

Glenn Gould: “The Idea of North” (radio montage)/The Glenn Gould Reader (ed. by Tim Page) (letters & aesthetic essays)

Margaret Atwood: The Handmaid's Tale (dystopian novel)/Survival (criticism)/“Notes Towards a Poem That Can Never Be Written” (poetry)

Robert Kroetsch: What the Crow Said (novel)/“The Exploding Porcupine: Violence of Form in English-Canadian Fiction” (critical essay)

Rudy Wiebe: “Canada in the Making” (essay)/The Temptations of Big Bear (novel)

Secondary literature:

Linda Hutcheon: The Canadian Postmodern; Splitting Image: Contemporary Canadian Ironies; A Poetics of Postmodernism
M. Trikha (ed.): Canadian Literature: Recent Essays
M.F. Salat: The Canadian Novel: A Search for Identity

11. Realists and Meta-realists: Doctorow, Auster & De Lillo/BS, Fall 2002

This course aims to examine the state of realist fiction in American literature at the beginning of the new millenium. We will read new novels by three of the most celebrated writers in the 1980s and ’90s, E.L. Doctorow, Paul Auster and Don De Lillo, and see how their most recent prose ficitions are preoccupied with detailed descriptions of everyday life and events (someti mes explicitly fuelled by a desire to write (auto-)biographically), and yet simultaneously contain what could be postulated to be a meta-realist dimension, in the sense that these texts display an element of self-awareness of their status as textual constructs, with characters (and authors) whose existence is circumscribed by ontological doubts. As part of generating a history of the recurrence of the realist impulse in American fiction of the last two decades of the 20th Century, we shall also look at excerpts from the writings of other neo-realists in American fiction, such as Nicholson Baker, Jay McInerney, Douglas Coupland and Chuck Palahniuk.

For our first session (Sept. 5.) please read Don DeLillo: The Body Artist. This short novel is already available from Centerboghandelen. While reading the book, consider these questions: What’s realistic about this novel and what’s not? Is it too detailed in some parts (the breakfast scene) and too vague in others? Is it a fantasy/ghost story as well? Is it a meta-fiction? Consider terms such as description’ - where do we find description in this book (on the levels of setting and character, for instance)? Consider also theme’ - can themes be carriers of realism? If so, which themes are realist, and which are not?

Primary texts:

E.L. Doctorow: City of God
Paul Auster: Timbuktu
Don De Lillo: The Body Artist

Nicholson Baker: The Mezzanine (excerpts)
Jay McInerney: Bright Lights, Big City (excerpts)
Douglas Coupland: Generation X (excerpts)
Chuck Pahlaniuk: Fight Club (excerpts)

Course plan:

1. 5/9 Don DeLillo: The Body Artist
Stephen Baker: “Now More Than Ever” from The Fiction of Postmodernity, Edinburgh UP, 2000
Jeremy Hawthorn: “Types of Novels” from Studying the Novel, Arnold, 1997

2. 12/9 Nicholson Baker: The Mezzanine (excerpts)
Russ Chambers: “Time Out” from Loiterature, Univ. of Nebraska Press, 1999
Jeremy Hawthorn: “Realism, Modernism, Postmodernism” from Studying the Novel, Arnold, 1997

19-20/9 Symposium SDU: Amerikas Apokalypser

3. 26/9 Jay McInerney: Bright Lights, Big City (excerpts)
 Graham Caveney: “Psychodrama, Qu’est-ce que c’est?” from Caveney & Young (eds.) Shopping in Space: Essays on American Blank Generation Fiction, Serpent’s Tail, 1992
Roland Barthes: “The Reality Effect” from Lilian Furst (ed.) Realism, Longman, 1992

4. 3/10 Douglas Coupland: Generation X (excerpts)
Bent Sorensen: “Moses at Mental Ground Zero?” from Generationing the Text: Readings in the North American Generational Difference Discourse Aalborg U., 2001
Luc Hernan: “In Search of a Definition”, from Concepts of Realism, Camden House, 1996

5. 10/10 Chuck Pahlaniuk: Fight Club (excerpts)
Kent Hytten: “I Want You to Hit Me As Hard As You Can’
Dario Villanueva: “The Realist Reading” from Theories of Literary Realism, SUNY Press, 1997

6. 17/10 Paul Auster: Timbuktu
Marc Chenetier: “Paul Auster’s Pseudonymous World” from Dennis Barone (ed.): Beyond the Red Notebook: Essays on Paul Auster, U. of Pennsylvania Press, 1995
Michael Riffaterre: “Truth in Diegesis” from Fictional Truth, Johns Hopkins, 1990

7. 24/10 E.L. Doctorow: City of God, 1
Tom Deignan: “Are You There, God?”, book review in The World & I, Washington, June 2000
Linda Hutcheon: “The Pastime of Past Time” from Marjorie Perloff (ed.) Postmodern Genres, U. of Oklahoma Press, 1989

8. 31/10 E.L. Doctorow: City of God, 2
David Lodge: “The Novel Now” from Mark Currie: Metafiction, Longman, 1995

12. Postmodern Genres/BS - Spring 2003

How do genres function in post-modern literature? We shall investigate this through readings of postmodern specimens of genre literature: The western, the detective novel, the historical romance, the science-fiction/fantasy novel.

Each novel will be compared with examples from the history of each individual genre in order to establish a normative poetics, which can then be contrasted with the postmodern version. This will also involve a discussion of postmodern poetics as such, esp. the function of parody and pastiche as well as other intertextual techniques in postmodern fiction.

Postmodern genre novels:

John Crowley: Little, Big (1981)
Cormac Mc Carthy: Blood Meridian (1985)
Thomas Pynchon: Mason & Dixon (1997)
Jonathan Lethem: Motherless Brooklyn (1999)

Marjorie Perloff (ed.): Postmodern Genres (University of Oklahoma Press, 1989)
David Duff (ed.): Modern Genre Theory (Longman, 2000)
Simon Dentith: “Is Nothing Sacred: Parody and the Postmodern” in Parody (Routledge New Critical Idiom, 2000)
Graham Allen: “Postmodern Conclusions” in Intertextuality (Routledge New Critical Idiom, 2000)

Histories of individual genres, fx.:
Stephen Baker: “Postmodernity and the Historical Novel” in The Fiction of Postmodernity (Edinburgh University Press, 2000)
Marty Roth: Foul and Fair Play: Reading Genre in Classic Detective Fiction (University of Georgia Press, 1995)
David J. Stevens: The Word Rides Again: Rereading the Frontier in American Fiction (Ohio University Press, 2002)
Lee Clark Mitchell: Westerns: Making the Man in Fiction and Film (U. of Chicago Press, 1996)
Neil Cornwell: The Literary Fantastic: From Gothic to Postmodernism (Harvester/Wheatsheaf, 1990)

Postmodern poetics, fx.:
Linda Hutcheon: A Poetics of Postmodernism (Routledge, 1988)
Brian McHale: Constructing Postmodernism (Routledge, 1992)

13. American Icons - A Cultural Studies Seminar/BS - Spring 2003/Fall 2006

The aim of this course is to investigate the construction and dissemination of iconic status in an American cultural context.

Some initial questions can be raised: How and why do specific persons (fx. Elvis or Marilyn),  or objects (fx. the Barbie doll or the World Trade Center towers) become familiarized to an extent where we begin to hear them labelled as American icons? Which historical developments can we trace in the development of icon status? Is there a cultural acceleration at play, so that icon-hood is attained more quickly towards the end of the 20th century; and are icons increasingly generationally specific, so that older icons slip out of the pantheon of icons? (Rudolph Valentino or Charles Lindbergh are examples of pre-WW II icons that no longer spark universal recognition) What symbiosis exists between the development of new media and the construction of cultural icons? What functions do icons have in the (popular) cultural field, i.e. what referentiality positions do they establish? Are we witnessing modern forms of worship/idolatry in connection with cultural icons, as the origin of the word might suggest? If so, which, and how do icons tie in with developments in spiritual culture? What are the relations between phenomena such as fandom’, cult status, celebrity, fame and the attainment of iconic status? Is there a necessary connection between icon-hood and death? Are icons gender and race specific in their construction? Do all icons involve a story of struggle and rise through a class hierarchy? Which connections exist between icon-hood and nation-hood (American-ness)?

The course will commence with an attempt to theorize the concept of cultural icons by drawing on semiotics (iconicity) and the cultural history of religion (cult; worship). After this introduction to icon-theory, we will proceed to look at some of the earliest American icons, associated with various American mythologies, fx. Puritanism, Frontier ideologies, Rags to Riches tales etc., and subsequently bring the idea of cultural icons into the 20th Century. This will lead to the sketching out of a provisional typology of icons: Heroes and villains (crime, sports, exploration etc.); Stars (movies, music etc.); Great Men (and Women) (politics, movements etc.); Artists (painters, poets, writers etc.)

After this each session will be devoted to the close reading of one or more icon(s). The selection will focus on post-WW II figures which are all based on real people from all of the above categories. The crucial decade for icon formation will be shown to be the 1960s, partly because of the political and cultural turbulence of that decade, partly because of the proliferation of image through TV, film and mass events during that decade. The icons will be read through their manifestations in images and other texts; through their own (auto-biographical) words, sounds and images; through the key (other-authored) texts that establish their status as icons; and finally through ‘parasitical texts that enhance and/or exploit an already established icon-status (films, biographies, songs, fictions, etc. - often parodic and satirical in intent).

Preliminary list of icons:

Elvis Presley, James Dean, Marilyn Monroe
Jim Morrison, Bob Dylan, Jerry Garcia
Martin Luther King, Malcolm X
John F. Kennedy, Jackie O.
Mohammed Ali, Andy Warhol, Allen Ginsberg
Patty Hearst, Jane Fonda
Ronald Reagan

14. New York in Historiographic Metafiction - (Spring 2004)

Authors and works:

Michael Chabon: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (2001)
Mark Helprin: Winter's Tale (1983)
Steven Millhauser, Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer (2001)

Theory and aproaches:

Metafiction – Mark Currie (ed.): Metafiction (Longman, 1995)

Historiographic metafiction – Linda Hutcheon: A Poetics of Postmodernism: History, Theory, Fiction (Routledge, 1988)

Magical realism – Lois Parkinson Zamora & Wendy B. Faris (eds.): Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community (Duke, 1995)

Meta-realism & realism – Michael Riffaterre: Truth in Fiction (Johns Hopkins, 1990)


The topography of New York is particularly appealing for novelists who seek the broad canvas so typically employed in historical novels, magical realism and the overlapping mode of historiographic metafiction. The works chosen here all share, at least, the following features:They have a historical setting; they play out on the colourful, larger than life canvas of New York; and most importantly they feature a tension between realistic description and playfully destabilizing language and narrational effects, such as the ones we know from metafiction, romances of various kind (detective novels, fantasy and science fiction) and magical realism.
The aim of the course is to focus on the role given to New York as setting (i.e. reading its literary topography), and to examine how the description of setting colours our reading of characters, themes and narration in these texts. It is in such descriptive passages that we particularly find a tension between the reality effect and metafictional devices. The course proposes to develop a meta-realist reading of the works in question and thus indirectly come to a deeper understanding of the workings of the hybrid genre and mode labels mentioned above.

Course plan:

Week 1:

Introduction to the field (no theory reading)
Michael Chabon – first third of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

Week 2:

Patricia Waugh: “What is metafiction and why are they saying such awful things about it?” (in Currie (ed.))
Michael Chabon – middle third of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

Week 3:

Linda Hutcheon: “Historiographic metafiction” (in Currie (ed.))
Michael Chabon – final third of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

Week 4:

Wendy B. Faris: “Scheherezade’s Children: Magical Realism and Postmodern Fiction” (in Zamora & Faris (eds.))
Mark Helprin – first third of Winter
's Tale

Week 5:

Rawdon Wilson: “The Metamorphoses of Fictional Space: Magical Realism” (in Zamora & Faris (eds.))
Mark Helprin – middle third of Winter
's Tale

Week 6:

Theo L. D’haen: “Magic Realism and Postmodernism: Decentering Privileged Centers” (in Zamora & Faris (eds.))
Mark Helprin – final third of Winter
's Tale

Week 7:

Linda Hutcheon: “Theorizing the postmodern: toward a poetics” (in Hutcheon)
Steven Millhauser – first half of Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer

Week 8:

Michael Riffaterre: “Truth in Diegesis” (in Riffaterre)
Steven Millhauser – second half of Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer

15. Writing California/BS - Fall 2004

This course aims to present a number of ways in which place and writing can meet. The textualized location of choice is California, with a specific bias towards representations of rural California(s) of the past, present and future. The genres of writing presented will include fiction (also science fiction/fantasy); poetry; and non-fiction in the form of nature writing, travel writing, anthropology texts, memoirs and (auto) biographies etc. Writers will include Ursula LeGuin, Richard Brautigan, Henry Miller, Jack Kerouac, Gary Snyder, John Muir, Barry Lopez, Alfred and Theodora Kroeber. The theoretical background for the course will be provided by discussions of place and setting in literary theory, as well as a general discussion of representation/mimesis and identity as currently employed in cultural and literary studies. Texts will include: John Brinckerhoff Jackson: A Sense of Place, a Sense of Time; Michaels, Reid & Scherr (eds.): West of the West: Imagining California

Primary texts:

Ursula K. LeGuin: Always Coming Home
Richard Brautigan: A Confederate General from Big Sur
Henry Miller: Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymous Bosch
Jack Kerouac: The Dharma Bums; Big Sur
Gary Snyder: Riprap; The Practice of the Wild (excerpts); A Place in Space (excerpts)
John Muir: Mountain Thoughts (excerpts)
Barry Lopez: Desert Notes; River Notes; Field Notes (excerpts); The Rediscovery of North America (excerpts)
Alfred Kroeber: Handbook of the Indians of California (excerpts)
Theodora Kroeber: Ishi in Two Worlds (excerpts)

16. Scottish Postmodern Fiction - Spring 2005

Authors and works:

Iain Banks: The Crow Road (1992)
Alasdair Gray: Poor Things (1992)
Irvine Welch: Trainspotting (1993)
Jim Kelman: How late it was, how late (1994)
Christopher Brookmyre: One Fine Day in the Middle of the Night (1999)
Andrew Crumey: Mr. Mee (2000)

Is there a peculiarly Scottish postmodernism?

These novels seem to insist both on their particularity as Scottish texts (whether in their topography, their language quirks, or their (postcolonial) political obsessions with independence and separate identity), as well as on their postmodern qualities (whether in their non-linear story-telling, genre mixing, use of historiographic metafictional techniques, or their obsession with the break-down of grand narratives of religion and science). Thus they form part of a hitherto little discussed canon of Scottish postmodern fiction which this course will examine in the light of literary history as well as in the light of postmodern and postcolonial poetics - with a view to defining the Scottish particularism in this body of texts.


Wallace & Stevenson: The Scottish Novel since the Seventies
Cairns Craig: The Modern Scottish Novel: Narrative and the National Imagination
Linda Hutcheon: A Poetics of Postmodernism
Brian McHale: Postmodernist Fiction
Stephen Baker: The Fiction of Postmodernity

17.  Passing... - Fall 2005

This course examines the notion of passing as an essential part of identity construction in 20th literature and film. Malcontent with ones place within the various identity hierarchies, individuals have always tried to better or protect their position through passing for something or someone else. Taking advantage of the fact that identities are discursively constructed and transmitted thorugh texts, one can use the notion and dynamics of passing in texts to examine historically bound representations of identities. The six main discursive differences in the 20th century pertain to race, gender, class, nation, belief, and age. Each will be examined as a discourse of identity construction through one illustrative filmic or literary text. The  periods investigated are the interwar years, the Cold War/Eisenhower years, and the beginning and end of the postmodern period.

Race:  Nella Larsen: Passing (1929)

Class: F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Great Gatsby (1926)

Nation: Don Siegel (director), Daniel Mainwaring (pseudonym: Geoffrey Holmes (screenwriter)): Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) (Film based on novel by Jack Finney)

Belief: Jack Kerouac: Dharma Bums (1958)

Gender: Kimberley Pierce (director & screenwriter): Boys Don’t Cry (1999)

Age: Hal Ashby (director), Colin Higgins (screenwriter): Harold and Maude (1971)

The course will build on a background of twentieth century American literary and cultural history (course book: Passing: Identity and Interpretation in Sexuality, Race and Religion (eds. María Carla Sánchez & Linda Schlossberg), NYU Press, 2001), and the theoretical framework will be based on the notion of difference discourses. There will be an introductory lecture on difference discourses and social constructivism, followed by one session on each text/main difference. The final session will indicate some trends in the current discursive fields in early 21st century American literature and film.

18. Narratives of Disorder - Disorders of Narrative - Spring 2006

What is order, what is disorder? Consecution of temporal events (things happen in sequences which are easy to follow, flashbacks and –forwards are clearly marked) and causality (cause precedes effect) is normally regarded as a prerequisite for understanding narratives. What happens when narratives become disorderly by violating the principles of consecution?

One approach might be to look at narratives about disorder, or narratives where protagonists or narrators suffer from disorders. Such disorders as amnesia, attention deficiencies, involuntary tics and compulsions (such as Tourette Syndrome symptoms), and other perception and communication related disorders, such as autism/Asperger’s syndrome or certain forms of schizophrenia all pose challenges to narratives: interruptions, lacunae, disruptions, inversions, surpluses can all become narrative manifestations of these disorders. Can non-sufferers of these disorders still decode such disturbed narratives? (If so, why and how?) Can we even learn things from them that we cannot learn from more orderly narratives?

A proposition would be that by reading both fictional and non-fictional disorder narratives, we might gain insights into both the orders and disorders of brains and psyches and the workings of narratives as a medium of carrying meaning.

A preliminary corpus of such narratives would consist of at least the following books (an * marks a book we shall read in full for the course):

  Oliver Sacks: The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat: Clinical Tales (1985) (excerpts)
  Mark Richard: Fishboy: A Ghost's Tale (1993)
* Chuck Palahniuk: Fight Club (1996)
  Gwyn Hyman Rubio: Icy Sparks (1998)
* Jonathan Lethem: Motherless Brooklyn (1999)
Jonathan Lethem (ed.): The Book of Amnesia (2000) (excerpts)
* Alan Lightman: The Diagnosis (2000)
* Myla Goldberg: Bee Season (2001)

* Don De Lillo: The Body Artist (2001)
  Craig Clevenger: The Contortionist's Handbook (2002)

  Nicholson Baker: A Box of Matches (2003)
* Mark Haddon: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (2003)


Narrative theory, narratology: H. Porter Abbott: The Cambridge Introduction to Narrative; Paul Cobley: Narrative; Shlomith Rimmon-Kenan: Narrative Fiction: Contemporary Poetics; Gerard Genette: Narrative Discourse: An Essay in Method

Trauma theory: Cathy Caruth: Trauma: Explorations in Memory; Geoffrey Hartman: “On Traumatic Knowledge and Literary Studies” in New Literary History 26.3 (1995) 537-563

Story telling and functional theory: Richard Kearney: On Stories (Thinking in Action); Michael Roemer: Telling Stories: Postmodernism and the Invalidation of Traditional Narrative

19. Scientific Discourses in Literature - Fall 2007

The aim of this course is to investigate the representations of science in postmodern literature and to chart the presence of scientific discourses as legitimizing explanations for human activity and agency. Some of the questions we shall address are: Which types of scientific discourses proliferate in postmodern novels? What are the discourses of the hard sciences, such as physics, particularly good at capturing, compared to those of softer sciences, such as biology? What specific functions do pure science discourses culled from mathematics and logic fulfil in literature? Where is the common ground between literaure and science - in philosophy, perhaps? What are some of the relations between literature and chaos and complexity theory on the one hand and narratology on the other? What happens to representations of emotions in literature inspired by scientific world-views?

Primary texts:

Alan Lightman (1993): Einstein's Dreams (excerpts)
Andrew Crumey (1994): Music in a Foreign Language
Jonathan Lethem (1997): As She Climbed Across the Table

Secondary literature:

Lyotard: The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge (1979)
Jean Baudrillard:
The Precession of Simulacra (1981)
David Harvey:
Time-Space Compression and the Postmodern Condition (1989)
Ursula Heise: Chronoschisms (1997) (excerpt)
Brian McHale: Constructing Postmodernism (1992) (excerpt)

20. Sense and Non-sense - (not scheduled at present/devised to be team taught with Camelia Elias)

The aim of this course is both to interpret literary and theoretical texts and to theorize interpretation itself, especially with a view to understanding how interpretation works in the case of limit-texts that resist interpretation - or in other words: what can we do to make sense of non-sense? What is is that attracts us to non-sensical texts, and how can we engage with them if we cannot ultimately interpret them? We will present theories that focus on aesthetic response and reception aesthetics to offer inroads into what seems like either deliberately obscure or hermetic texts, or playfully nonsensical texts. The course also has a historical dimension in that the texts read illustrate how non-sensicality is construed in different periods in literary history.

Primary texts:

Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass
Gertrude Stein, Tender Buttons and Here I Am and Look at Me Now (excerpts)
Walter Abish, Ardor/Awe/Atrocity from In the Future Perfect
Ursula Krammer Maynard, Performing Postmodernity (excerpts)
Avital Ronell, The Telephone Book (excerpts)

Theoretical texts (excerpted in course compendium):

Umberto Eco, The Limits of Interpretation
E.D. Hirsch, Validity in Interpretation
Wolfgang Iser, The Act of Reading
Hans Robert Jauss, Towards an Aesthetics of Reception
Ruth Lorand, A Portrait of Interpretation
Warren Motte, Playtexts: Ludics in Contemporary Literature
Ruth E. Burke, The Games of Poetics: Ludic Criticism and Postmodern Fiction
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