English 694:  Maximalism and Minimalism in Postmodern Fiction

Professor Joseph Conte

Fall 1996


Aug 27: Introduction: The Encyclopedic Tradition in Prose Fiction
Sep 3: Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow I. Edward Mendelson, "Gravity's Encyclopedia," in Bloom, ed. Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow, pp. 29-52.
Sep 10: Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow II. Tom LeClair, "Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow," in The Art of Excess, pp. 36-68. Brian McHale, "Misreading Gravity's Rainbow," in Constructing Postmodernism, pp. 87-114.
Sep 17: Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow III. N. Katherine Hayles, "Caught in the Web: Cosmology and the Point of (No) Return in Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow," in Cosmic Web, pp. 168-97.
Sep 24: John Barth, LETTERS I. Barth, "A Few Words About Minimalism" and "It's a Long Story: Maximalism Reconsidered," in Further Fridays, pp. 64-88.
Oct 1: Barth, LETTERS II. Barth, "Speaking of LETTERS," "Historical Fiction, Fictitious History" and "The Literature of Replenishment," in The Friday Book, pp. 172-206.
Oct 8: Barth, LETTERS III. Tom LeClair, "John Barth's LETTERS," in The Art of Excess, pp. 175-203. Max Schultz, "Barth, LETTERS, and the Great Tradition," in Cope and Green, eds. Novel Vs. Fiction, pp. 95-115.
Oct 15: Donald Barthelme, Snow White. Paul Maltby, "Donald Barthelme," in Dissident Postmodernists, pp. 43-81.
Oct 22: William Gibson, Neuromancer. Istvan Csicsery-Ronay, Jr., "Cyberpunk and Neuromanticism," in McCaffery, ed. Storming the Reality Studio, pp. 182-93. Veronica Hollinger, "Cybernetic Deconstructions: Cyberpunk and Postmodernism," in Storming, pp. 203-218. Larry McCaffery, "An Interview with William Gibson," in Storming, pp. 263-85.
Oct 29: Kathy Acker, Empire of the Senseless. Ellen G. Friedman, "'Now Eat Your Mind': An Introduction to the Works of Kathy Acker," in Review of Contemporary Fiction 9:3 (1989): 37-49. Larry McCaffery, "The Artists of Hell: Kathy Acker and 'Punk' Aesthetics," in Friedman and Fuchs, eds. Breaking the Sequence, pp. 215-30.
Nov 5: Don DeLillo, White Noise. Tom LeClair, "Closing the Loop: White Noise," in In the Loop, pp. 207-36. Frank Lentricchia, "Tales of the Electronic Tribe" in New Essays on White Noise, pp. 87-113.
Nov 12: William Gaddis, A Frolic of His Own I.
Nov 19: Gaddis, A Frolic of His Own II.
Nov 26: No Class: Thanksgiving Recess
Dec 3: Georges Perec, Life: A User's Manual I. Paul Schwartz, "La Vie mode d'emploi," in Georges Perec: Traces of His Passage, pp. 85-100.
Dec 10: Perec, Life: A User's Manual II

Required Texts:

Kathy Acker, Empire of the Senseless (Grove Weidenfeld, 1988)
John Barth, Letters (Putnam's, 1979; Dalkey Archive; 1994)
Donald Barthelme, Snow White (Atheneum, 1967)
Don DeLillo, White Noise (Penguin, 1985)
William Gaddis, A Frolic of His Own ( Poseidon, 1994 )
William Gibson, Neuromancer (Ace, 1984)
Georges Perec, Life: A User's Manual (Godine, 1987)
Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow (Penguin, 1973)

Texts are available at Talking Leaves Bookstore, 3158 Main St., Buffalo, NY.

Reserve List:

Barth, John. The Friday Book.
__________. Further Fridays.
Bloom, Harold, ed. Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow.
Cope, Jackson I. and Geoffrey Green, eds. Novel Vs. Fiction: The Contemporary Reformation.
Friedman, Ellen G. and Miriam Fuchs, eds. Breaking the Sequence: Women's Experimental Fiction.
Hayles, N. Katherine. The Cosmic Web: Scientific Field Models and Literary Strategies in the Twentieth Century.
LeClair, Tom. The Art of Excess: Mastery in Contemporary American Fiction.
__________. In the Loop: Don DeLillo and the Systems Novel.
Frank Lentricchia, "Tales of the Electronic Tribe" in Lentricchia, ed. New Essays on White Noise, pp. 87-113.
Maltby, Paul. Dissident Postmodernists: Barthelme, Coover, Pynchon.
McCaffery, Larry, ed. Storming the Reality Studio: A Casebook of Cyberpunk and Postmodern Science Fiction.
McHale, Brian. Constructing Postmodernism.
Review of Contemporary Fiction 9:3 (1989): Kathy Acker Number.
Schwartz, Paul. Georges Perec: Traces of His Passage.
Weisenburger, Steven. A Gravity's Rainbow Companion: Sources and Contexts for Pynchon's Novel.

Course Requirements:

Seminar participants who are registered intensively will be required to make a twenty-minute oral presentation that addresses the novel and critical works assigned for that class meeting. A one page, single-spaced precis with an attached works cited should be prepared for distribution to the class.

A twenty page research paper that addresses one or more novels on the syllabus is also required of intensively registered students.

Last revised on Tuesday, March 7, 2000.
Copyright 2000 Joseph M. Conte. All Rights Reserved.