Seminar in 20th-Century American Literature: Governing Fictions: Representing Politics in the American Novel (online)

Governing Fictions: Representing Politics in the American Novel
English 8320
Samuel Cohen
Course Description

This seminar will read works of American political fiction published since 1900, asking what their representations of politics can tell us about fiction across modern US literary history and about politics in modern US history. Examining both the narratives Americans have constructed about the nation and also the modes through which writers have represented, referred to, and recreated the world of politics in their work, we will be aided by work in the history and theory of the novel.

Primary works may include some of the following: Charles Chesnutt, The Marrow of Tradition (1901); Sinclair Lewis, It Can’t Happen Here (1935); Robert Penn Warren, All the King’s Men (1946); Robert Coover, The Public Burning (1977); Joan Didion, Democracy (1984); Don DeLillo, Libra (1988); Tim O’Brien, In the Lake of the Woods (1994); Chang-Rae Lee, Native Speaker (1995); Toni Morrison, Paradise (1997); Philip Roth, The Plot Against America (2004); Dana Spiotta, Eat the Document (2006); Jonathan Lethem, Chronic City (2009); Paul Beatty, The Sellout (2015).

Assignments may include weekly responses, presentations, a conference-length scholarly paper, and public writing connecting the issues of the course to current events.