Contemporary Novel

ENGLISH 377.01

The “contemporary novel” as a literary category is unique because its history is still unfolding.  Far from a settled canon, the novels in this course take part in imagining the globalized present.  Even more importantly, they influence how we as readers make sense of such a present.  We will focus on novels from around the English-speaking world that combine timeless questions of how to live well with urgent questions regarding issues that shape the present:  These issues include 1) debates about national belonging in a global age 2) the centrality of travel, immigration, and displacement to contemporary models of community; 3) the development of new forms of economic, technological, and environmental interconnection; 4) the ethical and political quandaries that arise when our sense of identity and social obligation shifts between the local and the global; the human-centered and the non-human centered (with respect to climate change, for example).  We will balance the narrow temporal frame of the contemporary (defined here as 1988-present) with a wide geographical range.  You’ll have a chance to read novels from South Africa, India, Italy, Germany, Britain, and Canada.  We will also read a couple novels in translation with the aim of understanding how English has become a global literary language.  Novels will be drawn mostly from the following:  Kazuo Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day, Elena Ferrante, My Brilliant Friend, Zadie Smith White Teeth, J.M. Coetzee Disgrace, Arundhati Roy The God of Small Things, W.G. Sebald The Emigrants, Tom McCarthy Remainder, Margaret Atwood, Oryx and Crake. Requirements: One short writing assignment (1pg), Two short papers (5-6 pgs each), Take-home final, Class participation.