Engl 4300: Recent British & American Writers
Fall 2006 • Bate 1020 • 4:00-5:15 M&W

Course Website: http://core.ecu.edu/engl/whisnantl/4300/

Professor Luke Whisnant
Office: Erwin 113; phone: 328-6783
Hours: 2:00-4:00 M&W; 5:30-6:30 Tue
E-mail: WhisnantL@ecu.edu



From the ECU Catalog: "Major works and trends in literature since World War II." When this course was first added at ECU, in the late 1960s, it was a manageable time period of a little over two decades. Now, of course, the list of "major works" has more than doubled, and with two new generations of excellent writers, an explosion of literary talent (especially in the British former colonies), the ascendancy of women writers and writers of color, and massive changes in the publishing industry, there has been an enormous amount of wonderful writing since 1945, and in a 14-week semester, we can only hope to taste a small sample. Along the way we will encounter and attempt to define a number of recent literary trends and movements including (in no particular order) realism, the beats, postmodernism, minimalism, magical realism, confessional poetry, metafiction, fabulism, neo-gothic, postcolonialism, etc. This is a class for people who love to read, who like sentences, and who will, as Vladimir Nabokov says of good readers, "caress the details." 



Listed in order needed (roughly). Buy them all at once, or one at a time. You may find that you save a few dollars ordering online (amazon.com is one well-known source).

Graham Greene, The Quiet American
Flannery O'Connor, Three By Flannery O'Connor
Joan Didion, Play It As It Lays
Donald Barthelme, Sixty Stories
Raymond Carver, Cathedral 
J.M. Coetzee, Waiting for the Barbarians
Stephen Millhauser, The Barnum Museum 
Salman Rushdie, East, West
Zadie Smith, On Beauty
Selected poetry (on emailed handouts)

A note on text selection: What? No Saul Bellow? No Toni Morrison? No William Golding, no Joseph Brodsky, no Nadine Gordimer, no Samuel Beckett, no V.S. Naipaul? (Extra credit if you know how those seven writers are related.) No John Updike, no Joyce Carol Oates, no fill-in-the-blank-with-your-favorite-brilliant-contemporary-writer?... This course is supposed to cover both British and American literature of the past 50+ years, which is (as mentioned above) a time of staggering richness and innovation. If we were reading “great writers,” we would hardly begin to scratch the surface. Instead, I’ve opted to read representative texts, that is, books that will acquaint you with particular movements, styles, techniques, and trends in postmodern fiction, so that you’ll be able to recognize these broad patterns in your future reading. More on this in class.



Fair warning: Contemporary fiction deals with our contemporary world. If you are easily offended by sex, blasphemy, abortion, profanity, violence, obscenity, war, drug use, racial slurs, incest, immorality, or other such aspects of postmodern life, you might want to drop this class and add another.



The percentages below might look a bit odd; that's because I use a twelve-point scale to evaluate writing. Your final grade for the class will be calculated on a ten-point scale.

Reading quizzes.................................... 50% 
Three essays........................................ 36% 

Takehome final or author handout ............ 10% 

Participation........................................   4% 



Come to class. Three unexcused absences; after that, your final grade drops one letter grade. 

Participate in class discussions. If you don't volunteer, expect to be called on. 

Read the material. We'll have a reading quiz every time we meet. I will drop everyone's lowest quiz grade, but if you want to do well in this class, you must keep up with the reading.

Write three brief (3-4 pp) critical essays. For details on this assignment and to see sample student essays, click on the links.

Either take the final (a take-home essay, due on our exam day); or write, copy, and distribute a handout (a bio sheet about the author, or book review roundup) to be given to the class the week before we go over that author/book. Again, details forthcoming.

Check your email at least once a week for any changes in assignments or details about readings.

Please do not eat in this class. Drinks, sipped quietly, are fine. 


To view the current semester's reading schedule, click on the link.