ENGLISH 52B US FICTION 1945 to the Present: GENERAL RESOURCES FOR THE CLASS
Download or print and consult these materials weekly. Includes both a course description and a syllabus of all the weekly assignments.
Note: we'll also be regularly using the Blog.
SEE ALSO THE BRIEF THEORETICAL AND SPECULATIVE ESSAYS BELOW (articles and a web link to a TED talk) THAT WILL BE RELEVANT FOR ALL THE BOOKS WE'LL READ THIS SEMESTER. THEY TAKE VERY DIFFERENT, BUT I BELIEVE COMPLEMENTARY, APPROACHES TOWARD UNDERSTANDING BROAD RECENT DEVELOPMENTS BUT IN FICTION AND IN THE WORLD WE'RE LIVING IN.
Also included below are some guides toward writing better papers on literature: how to craft a strong thesis, and how to use textual evidence in making an argument. Please consult these before writing paper #1--especially if this course is your first or second Swarthmore English course.
Who's your WA? download and keep this file for your reference. Includes handy email addresses. Correct as of Feb. 12. Email Prof. Schmidt if you find any errors.
Updated 19 January 7pm.
DOWNLOAD AND/OR PRINT THIS DOCUMENT AND CONSULT IT WEEKLY FOR ALL READING ASSIGNMENTS. Students are responsible for reading and understanding the English 52B Course Requirements. If you have any questions about these, please consult with Prof. Schmidt.
Reposted here 29 January; please download this current copy and consult it.
For guidelines on crafting a good post, see the English 52B syllabus.
I recommend you read all files included here; all are brief but offer very good advice for writing strong College-level English literature papers.
Includes a list of the assigned and optional readings, plus a brief description of all of the books. All books are available via the Swarthmore College Bookstore. For a complete description of the English 52B course requirements and the syllabus, see the accompanying file.
There's a reason why this talk by one of the authors we're reading this semester has earned over 1 million (!!) views on YouTube.
Listen and learn. What she says applies not just to her fiction, but to the very reason why we read fiction and listen to poetry.
by Louis Menand. from The New Yorker, Jan. 5, 2015.
By William Deresiewicz. Published in The Atlantic magazine, December 28, 2014.
Recommended general reading for English 52B. I disagree with the author's claim that these 3 categories of artist are entirely separate from each other and occupy distinctly different historical periods. But I think you'll find this essay stimulating reading—as I did—and helpful as we get to know all the artist-writers we'll look at this semester, from Jack Kerouac through Ruth Ozeki, Sandra Cisneros, Thomas Pynchon, and Gary Shteyngart.
Please read summaries of these 2 important recent meditations on literature, empathy, and the interdependent self. Jen, a superb contemporary U.S. novelist who's been featured in both English 52B and my short story course (English 71D), argues that Western fiction, especially U.S. fiction, has far too often conceived of narrative as the story of the individual self against the world. She argues that particularly now we need stories about how to understand healthy vs. unhealthy interdependence, stories of the self linked to others. Palumbo-Liu, a U.S. literary critic and cultural studies theorist, asks why when we talk about empathizing with others in fiction or in life we emphasize sameness rather than listen to difference. Why? (My students often say, "I liked this book because the characters were very relatable." What does that mean, really? That we only are interested in the stories of others when we think they are like us?)
Jen's and Palumbo-Liu's ideas, briefly elaborated here, will be relevant for all the books we read in U.S. fiction this semester.
TV’s New Girls’ Club, By LILI LOOFBOUROW
"Great shows used to be about fallen masculinity. Now they’re about collaboration and resilience. What changed?"
This essay focuses on influential TV shows from The Sopranos and Breaking Bad to Orange Is the New Black, but its reflections on character, plot, and story-telling techniques are very relevant for considering post-World War II U.S. fiction as well.
"Among the Disrupted,"
Two fine short essays putting this question in historical context and giving us some smart and useful answers.
Authors: Cheryl Strayed and Adam Kirsch
"Brief Thoughts on Arrogance": a short New Yorker essay on book reviewing BY ALEXANDRA SCHWARTZ. Adapted from this year’s acceptance speech for the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing, awarded by the National Book Critics Circle.
Schwartz's main points are very relevant for writing good Swarthmore papers on literature too. Pay particular attention to paragraph #4, which begins "I like the floor metaphor especially…."