W, 6:30-9:30, GCB 2019

Luke Whisnant
Office: 2127 GCB
Phone: 328-6516
Hours: 4:30-6:30 M&W; 12:30-3
E-mail: WhisnantL@mail.ecu.edu


This class is about literary style: language, tone, structure, paragraphs, words, and above all, sentences--whether arranged in paragraphs or stanzas. We'll be studying the ways various representative modern and contemporary writers and poets put their work together, so close textual reading is a must. Some of the topics included will be Artifice, Minimalism, The Oral Style, The Middle Style, and Amalgams and Anomalies. We'll also encounter and attempt to define a number of terms, techniques, modes, etc., including (in no particular order): post-modernism, lyricism, set-piece, the new journalism, minimalism, magical realism, stream-of-consciousness, dramatic monologue, formalism, gonzo journalism, prolapsis, metafiction, fabulism, neo-gothic, parody, and many others. Engl 6870 is required for students in the creative writing program, but it is also open to grad students in other concentrations.

Fair Warning

We'll be reading contemporary literature in this class, and as you might expect, contemporary literature deals with contemporary issues.  If you are easily offended by sex, drugs, blasphemy, obscenity, the occasional racial or ethnic slur, or other such aspects of American life at the millennium, I suggest you try another class.


-  Strict attendance: this class meets only 15 times.
-  Five or six two- to four-page creative exercises imitating various styles
-  A term paper examining an aspect of style (7-10 pp)
-  Participation; leading selected discussions
-  Frequent reading quizzes
-  Exercises................20%
-  Quizzes..................20%
-  Presentations........... 20%
-  Term Paper ............ 40%

Readings will include selections from Toni Cade Bambara, Donald Barthelme, Raymond Carver, Joan Didion, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, Cormac McCarthy, Vladimir Nabokov, Katherine Ann Porter, Grace Paley, E. Annie Proulx, Ann Tyler, Eudora Welty, John Edgar Wideman, and Tom Wolfe; we'll also read selected poets from A. Poulin's Contemporary American Poetry.  Many of these will be on handouts (which means there'll be a small duplication fee--save your pennies).

Required texts are available at the Student Store, but you will save a few dollars by ordering them online from amazon.com, which always sells at a discount.  Click on the titles to go to the book's amazon.com homepage.  Texts in order needed:

Stanley Elkin, The Living End
Joan Didion, Play It As It Lays
Louise Erdrich, Tracks
Toni Cade Bambara, Gorilla, My Love
Donald Barthelme, 60 Stories
Lawrence Naumoff, Silk Hope, NC


Schedule  (subject to change)

Jan 13
Introduction to the Course; Words, Sentences, Lines, and Paragraphs; Bruce Springsteen as Exemplar of Bi-Polar Style: "Blinded by the Light" vs. "Nebraska"; two-page style sample due

Jan 20
Fancy Prose, or "Literary Style": readings on handout: David Lodge: "Fancy Prose"; selections from Faulkner, Nabokov, Ozack,  Millhauser, Proulx, Tom Wolfe, Whitman

Jan 27
Stanley Elkin, The Living End ; Toni Cade Bambara, "Sweet Town"; fancy sample due

Feb 03
Minimalism, or "Truthful Style": readings on handout: David Lodge: "Staying on the Surface"; stories by Hemingway, Carver, and Mason; reportage by Greene; poems TBA

Feb 10
Joan Didion, Play it as it Lays ; minimalist sample due

Feb 17
Happy Median, or "The Middle Style": readings on handout: stories by Porter, O'Connor, Brown, Gilchrist, O'Brien, Oates; nonfiction by McFee and Didion

Feb 24
Louise Erdrich: Tracks ; middle style sample due

Mar 03
The Illusion of Speech, or Oral Style: David Lodge: "Teenage Skaz"; selections by Twain, Paley, Faulkner, Gibbons; poems by Stafford and Chappell

Mar 10
Toni Cade Bambara, Gorilla, My Love; oral sample due

Mar 17
Spring Break

Mar 24
Amalgams and Anomalies: Some Post-Modern Styles: McCarthy, Paley, Heinemann, Barthelme

Mar 31
Donald Barthelme, selections from 60 Stories

Apr 07
Lawrence Naumoff, Silk Hope, NC

Apr 14
Turn Us On: Pick One and Teach Us

Apr 21
Turn Us On: Pick One and Teach Us

Apr 28
Turn Us On: Pick One and Teach Us

May 05
Reading Day: No class meeting; Style Project / Term Paper due

May 12
Exam, 6:30 PM.  Details TBA.