English 358: Experimental Fiction

Professor Joseph Conte

Spring 2009

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Postmodern fiction faces the following dilemma:  the supernatural (God and other channeled media) has retired, leaving us to our own devices of transmission; the natural world (species decimation and climate changes due to global warming) appears chaotic and threatens to overrun boundaries; and the mind (or consciousness; or possibly “liberal subjectivity”) is itself subject to a host of newly-diagnosed dysfunctions, not all responsive to psychopharmaceutical therapy.  The fictive response falls into two categories:  either formulate a plan with exacting design and stick to it, maniacally; or participate in the inevitable debris and its attendant uncertainties.  The result might just as well be called Experimental Fixion.

The reading list for Spring 2009 will include the following:

bulletKathy Acker,  Rip-Off Red, Girl Detective and The Burning Bombing of America
bulletPaul Auster, Travels in the Scriptorium
bulletItalo Calvino, If on a winter’s night a traveler
bulletDon DeLillo, The Body Artist
bulletWilliam Gibson, Pattern Recognition
bulletHarry Mathews, My Life in CIA
bulletMichel Houellebecq, The Elementary Particles
bulletThomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49
bulletGilbert Sorrentino, Aberration of Starlight
bulletDavid Foster Wallace, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men

To the extent that fiction is administered singly and in private—as opposed to film or televisual media—I will be taking note of your reading progress.  Grading will be based on two shorter papers and a final critical essay.

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Last revised on Tuesday, January 20, 2009.
Copyright 2009 Joseph M. Conte. All Rights Reserved.