Capstone Experience: American Transhistorical Fiction - Writing Intensive

American Transhistorical Fiction
English 4970W
John Evelev
Course Description

This course looks at multiple sets of related American novels that play with the idea of history.  For the most conventional form of historical fiction, a narrative is set in the past and its characters inhabit the world of the past (with as few anachronistic elements as possible).  That past may (and almost always does) comment on issues of concern within the present, but seldom actually intersects with the present. In this course, we will look at novels that intentionally mess with history: having characters move back and forth in time, are set in histories that didn't happen (but resemble them enough for them possibly to have happened), or jumble up time so that we have trouble telling if this was really history or not.  Transhistorical novels can be disorienting, but also enlightening: they signal the ways that history leaves its traces on the bodies and psyches of Americans and remind us that we can never escape our history and that even possible or alternative histories may still haunt us, however much we try not to let them.

Along with this, we will take some time to discuss the career prospects of the English major. Interspersed through the term, we will undertake self-investigative, informative, and research projects that I hope will make the prospect less scary.

Required Texts:

  • Edward Bellamy, Looking Backward: 2000-1887 (1888)
  • Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889)
  • Octavia Butler, Kindred (1979)
  • Colson Whitehead, The Underground Railroad (2016)
  • Philip Roth, The Plot against America (2004)