English 4675/5675 Contemporary American Literature, Fall 2019

TR 3:30-4:45PM, Arts & Sciences 345




Dr. Alex E. Blazer


Office Hours: TR 11:00-12:15 p.m. and 2:00-3:45 p.m., Arts & Sciences 330


Course Description


The undergraduate catalog and graduate catalog describe English 4675/5675 as "A study of contemporary American literature." This course's topics include:

This course's outcomes include:

In past semesters, this course has been taught alternately as a modernism/postmodern survey course, a modernism period course, a postwar literature course, and a postmodernism period course. This section will examine American literature from 1995-2020, sometimes called post-postmodernism or metamodernism. We will read fiction by David Foster Wallace; memoir by Dave Eggers; poetry by Rae Armantrout and Rachel Zolf (Canadian but often teaches in the US), plays by Edward Albee, David Henry Hwang, and Jackie Sibblies Drury, hybrid poetry by Claudia Rankine, and hybrid novels by Giannina Braschi and Laurie Sheck. Undergraduate students will compose response papers, a close reading paper, a comparison/contrast paper, a research paper, and an essay exam; graduate students will write a comparison/contrast paper, a book review, and a research paper, as well as teach a class.


For literature concentration students enrolled in the 2017 undergraduate catalog and before, this course fulfills Historical Area 2. For literature concentration students enrolled in the 2018 undergraduate catalog and after, this course fulfills American Topics or Post-1800 Topics. For creative writing concentration students, this courses fulfills the American literature requirement. This course's prerequisite is sophomore status.


Course Materials


required (Amazon or GCSU Bookstore)

Armantrout, Versed, 1-64 (2009)

Braschi, United States of Banana (2011)

Drury, We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia,

Formerly Known as Southwest Africa, From the German Sudwestafrika, Between the Years 1884–1915 (2012)

Eggers, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (2000)

Hwang, Yellow Face (2007)

Rankine, Citizen: An American Lyric (2014)

Sheck, Island of the Mad (2017)

Wallace, Infinite Jest (1996)

Zolf, Human Resources (2007)

required (GeorgiaVIEW)

course packet (includes Albee, The Goat or Who Is Sylvia? [2002])

recommended (Amazon or GCSU Bookstore)

Burn, David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest: A Reader's Guide, 2nd ed.

MLA Handbook, 8th ed.


Assignments and Grade Distribution


4675 Undergraduate Students


response, 5%

You will summarize and respond to a section of Infinite Jest in a 3-4 page informal essay and 5-10 minute informal presentation that broaches issues for class discussion.

close reading paper and presentation, 15%

You will pair up to write a 5-6 page close reading paper and 7-10 minute presentation analyzing a key passage in a single work of literature.

comparison/contrast paper, 20%

You will write a 6-8 page paper comparing and contrasting two works of literature.

research paper, 30%

You will write an 8-10 page research paper exploring a key issue or theme in a single work of literature or across two or three works of literature.

final exam, 30%

You will write a 8-10 page take home exam comparing and contrasting ideas and issues in the work of postpostmodernist authors. Here's how to calculate your final grade.


5675 Graduate Students


annotated bibliography and presentation, 15%

You will sign up to compile an annotated bibliography of an assigned literary work and teach the class.

book review, 25%

In an 8-10 page paper, you will summarize and evaluate, appreciate and interrogate, a book of contemporary American literature criticism.

comparison/contrast paper, 25%

In an 8-10 page paper, you will read another work by an author we've read in class and then compare and contrast a recurrent issue or theme in order to determine the author's world view.

research paper, 35%

You will write a 12-15 page research paper on either an individual literary work or an issue in postpostmodern literature and present your work-in-progress paper to the class. Here's how to calculate your final grade.


Course Policies


We will use the course site for the syllabus schedule and assignment prompts; supporting documents include an attendance record, a course grade calculation spreadsheet, FAQ, a GeorgiaVIEW walkthrough, a guide to literary analysis, a research methods guide, and paper templates. We will use GeorgiaVIEW for assignment submission and the course packet; if you experience problems with GeorgiaVIEW, contact support. Check your university email for course-related messages. Use an online backup or cloud storage service to not only save but also archive versions of your work in case of personal computer calamities.


Because this liberal arts course values contemporaneous discussion over fixed lecture, regular attendance is required. In accordance with the university class attendance policy, any student who misses seven or more classes for any reason (excused or unexcused) may fail the course. There will be a one letter final grade deduction for every unexcused absence beyond three. I suggest you use your three days both cautiously and wisely; and make sure you sign the attendance sheets. Habitual tardies, consistently leaving class early, texting, and checking the internet and social media will be treated as absences. Unexcused absences include work, family obligations, and scheduled doctor's appointments. Excused absences include family emergency, medical emergency, religious observance, and participation in a college-sponsored activity. If you have a medical condition or an extracurricular activity that you anticipate will cause you to miss more than four days of class, I suggest you drop this section or risk failure. The undergraduate class attendance policy can be found here, and the graduate policy here. You can check your attendance here.

MLA Style and Length Requirements

Part of writing in a discipline is adhering to the field's style guide. While other disciplines use APA or Chicago style, literature and composition follows MLA style. Assignments such as in-class exams, discussion board responses, informal/journal writing, and peer review may be informally formatted; however, formal assignments and take-home exams must employ MLA style. One-third of a letter grade will be deducted from a formal paper or take-home exam for problems in each of the following three categories, for a possible one letter grade deduction total: 1) margins, header, and heading, 2) font, font size, and line-spacing, and 3) quotation and citation format. A formal paper or take-home exam will be penalized one-third of a letter grade if it does not end at least halfway down on the minimum page length (not including Works Cited page) while implementing 12 pt Times New Roman font, double-spacing, and 1" margins. Each additional page short of the minimum requirement will result in an a additional one-third letter grade penalty. Before you turn in a formal paper, make sure your work follows MLA style by referring to the FAQ handout and using the MLA style checklist. Feel free to use these templates that are preformatted to MLA style.

Late Assignments

We're all busy with multiple classes and commitments, and adhering to deadlines is critical for the smooth running of the course. There will be a one letter assignment grade deduction per day (not class period) for any assignment that is turned in late. I give short extensions if you request one for a valid need at least one day before the assignment is due. I will inform you via email if I cannot open an electronically submitted assignment; however, your assignment will be considered late until you submit it in a file I can open. Because your completion of this course's major learning outcomes depends on the completion of pertinent assignments, failing to submit an assignment that is worth 15% or more of the course grade within five days of its due date may result in failure of the course. Failing to submit a final exam or final paper within two days of its due date may result in failure of the course.

Academic Honesty

The integrity of students and their written and oral work is a critical component of the academic process. The Honor Code defines plagiarism as "presenting as one's own work the words or ideas of an author or fellow student. Students should document quotes through quotation marks and footnotes or other accepted citation methods. Ignorance of these rules concerning plagiarism is not an excuse. When in doubt, students should seek clarification from the professor who made the assignment." The Undergraduate Catalog and Graduate Catalog define academic dishonesty as "Plagiarizing, including the submission of others’ ideas or papers (whether purchased, borrowed, or otherwise obtained) as one’s own When direct quotations are used in themes, essays, term papers, tests, book reviews, and other similar work, they must be indicated; and when the ideas of another are incorporated in any paper, they must be acknowledged, according to a style of documentation appropriate to the discipline" and "Submitting, if contrary to the rules of a course, work previously presented in another course," among other false representations. As plagiarism is not tolerated at GCSU, "since the primary goal of education is to increase one's own knowledge," any student found guilty of substantial, willful plagiarism or dishonesty may fail the assignment and the course. Here is how I have dealt with plagiarists in the past. This course uses plagiarism prevention technology from TurnItIn. The papers may be retained by the service for the sole purpose of checking for plagiarized content in future student submissions.

Passing or Failing of the Course

There are three ways to fail the course: failing to regularly attend class, plagiarizing, failing an assignment that is worth 15% or more of the course grade, be it from poor quality, lateness of submission, or a combination of poor quality and lateness. By contrast, students who regularly attend class, complete their work with academic integrity, and submit assignments on time will pass the course.

The Writing Center

The Writing Center is a free service available to all members of the university community. Consultants assist writers in the writing process, from conception and organization of compositions to revision to documentation of research. Located in Arts & Sciences 256, the Center is open Monday through Friday. Call 478.445.3370 or email for more information.

Additional Policies

Additional statements regarding the Religious Observance Policy, Assistance for Student Needs Related to Disability, Student Rating of Instruction Survey, Academic Honesty, and Fire Drills, Electronic Recording Policy, and Academic Grievance or Appeals can be found here.


Course Schedule

Week 1

T, 8-20


The Philosophy of Deadpool - Wisecrack Edition

R, 8-22

Connor, "Postmodernism and Literature" (GeorgiaVIEW)

Barth, "Lost in the Funhouse" (1968) (GeorgiaVIEW)

Ashbery, "Daffy Duck in Hollywood" (1977) (GeorgiaVIEW)

Recommended: Merry Melodies, "Daffy Duck in Hollywood" (1938)

Week 2

T, 8-27

Gass, Emma Enters a Sentence of Elizabeth Bishop's (1998) (GeorgiaVIEW)

Egan, "Black Box" (2012) (GeorgiaVIEW)

Timmer, "Beyond Postmodernism, An Introduction" (GeorgiaVIEW)

Recommended: Modernism/Postmodernism Lecture

R, 8-29

Wallace, Infinite Jest, 1-127 and Notes and Errata (1996)

Recommended: Burn, "Appendix: The Chronology of Infinite Jest," 91-103

Week 3

T, 9-3

Wallace, Infinite Jest, 127-258 and Notes and Errata

Recommended: Burn, "Infinite Jest and the Twentieth Century: David Foster Wallace's Legacy," 1-12

Recommended: Infinite Summer, "How to Read Infinite Jest"

Recommended: Wikipedia, "Infinite Jest"

Recommended: Infinite Jest: A Scene-by-Scene Guide

Recommended: Infinite Jest Index

Recommended: A Character Guide to Infinite Jest

R, 9-5

Wallace, "Octet" (2007) (GeorgiaVIEW)

Wallace, Infinite Jest, 258-374 and Notes and Errata

Recommended: Burn, "Problems in David Foster Wallace's Poetics," 13-32

Week 4

T, 9-10

Wallace, Infinite Jest, 375-508 and Notes and Errata

Wallace, "E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction" (GeorgiaVIEW)

Recommended: Burn, "The Novel," 33-76

R, 9-12

Wallace, Infinite Jest, 509-619 and Notes and Errata

Recommended: Holland, "'The Art's Heart's Purpose': Braving the Narcissistic Loop of Infinite Jest" (GeorgiaVIEW)

Week 5

T, 9-17

Eggers, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, 1-165 (2000)

Huber, "Post-Post, Beyond and Back: Literature in the Wake of Postmodernism" (GeorgiaVIEW)

Huber, "Conclusion: The Coming of Age of Reconstruction" (GeorgiaVIEW)

In Class Activity: A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Metareferentiality

R, 9-19

Eggers, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, 166-310 (2000)

Vermeulen and van den Akker, "Notes on Metamodernism" (GeorgiaVIEW)

MLA Style

Recommended: KCRW's Bookworm, "Dave Eggers"

Week 6

T, 9-24

Eggers, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, 311-437

Holland, "Conclusion: Metamodernism" (GeorgiaVIEW)

James and Seshagiri, "Metamodernism: Narratives of Continuity and Revolution" (GeorgiaVIEW)

R, 9-26

Albee, The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? (2002 / Play) (GeorgiaVIEW)

Mudasir, "Language, Character and History in Postmodern Drama: Towards Formulating a Poetics" (GeorgiaVIEW)

Week 7

T, 10-1

Writing Day: Bring Your Laptops

Undergraduate Research or Comparison/Contrast Paper Due

Graduate Book Review or Comparison/Contrast Due

R, 10-3

Wallace, Infinite Jest, 620-755 and Notes and Errata

Eve, "Thomas Pynchon, David Foster Wallace and the Problems of 'Metamodernism': Postmillennial Post-postmodernism?" (GeorgiaVIEW)

In Class Activity: Infinite Jest Topics

Week 8

T, 10-8

Wallace, Infinite Jest, 755-851 and Notes and Errata

In Class Activity: Infinite Jest Subjects

R, 10-10

Wallace, Infinite Jest, 851-983 and Notes and Errata

Recommended: Burn, "Epilogue: Wallace's Millennial Fictions" (77-90)

Recommended: KCRW's Bookworm, "David Foster Wallace"

Week 9

T, 10-15

No Class: Fall Break

R, 10-17

Zolf, Human Resources, 1-45 (2007 / Hybrid Poetry)

***Canadian poet who has taught in the US

Perloff, "Against Transparency" (GeorgiaVIEW)

Recommended: Reed, "In Praise of Obsolescence" (GeorgiaVIEW)

Recommended: PennSound, "Rachel Zolf, Reading at the Kelly Writers House, April 16, 2009"

Week 10

T, 10-22

Zolf, Human Resources, 46-91

Hwang, Yellow Face, Act One, 1-38 (2007 / Play)

Recommended: PoemTalk, "Rachel Zolf, Human Resources"

R, 10-24

Hwang, Yellow Face, Act Two, 39-70

Henke and Middeke, "Introduction: Drama and/after Postmodernism" (GeorgiaVIEW)

Recommended: YouTube, Yellow Face (Part 1 of 2)

Recommended: YouTube, Yellow Face (Part 2 of 2)

Week 11

T, 10-29

Armantrout, Versed, 1-64 (2009 / Poetry)

Recommended: KCRW's Bookworm, "Rae Armantrout"

Recommended: PennSound, "Rae Armantrout, Reading at the Kelly Writers House, September 20, 2007

R, 10-31

Armantrout, Versed, 65-121

Braschi, United States of Banana, 1-144 (2011 / Hybrid Novel)

Week 12

T, 11-5

Braschi, United States of Banana, 145-303

Recommended: 2012 National Book Festival, Giannina Braschi

In Class Activity: Braschi's Bananas

R, 11-7

No Class: Professor at Conference

Week 13

T, 11-12

Writing Day: Bring Your Laptop

Undergraduate Research or Comparison/Contrast Paper Due

Graduate Book Review or Comparison/Contrast Due

R, 11-14

Drury, We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as Southwest Africa, From the German Sudwestafrika, Between the Years 1884–1915 (2012 / Play)

Week 14

T, 11-19

Rankine, Citizen: An American Lyric, 1-80 (2014 / Hybrid Poetry)

Recommended: KCRW's Bookworm, "Claudia Rankine"

R, 11-21

Rankine, Citizen: An American Lyric, 81-161

Recommended: PoemTalk, "Claudia Rankine, 'Don't Let Me Be Lonely'"

Week 15

T, 11-26

Sheck, Island of the Mad, 1-214 (2017/ Hybrid Novel)

In Class Activity: Sheck's Porous Meanings

R, 11-28

No Class: Thanksgiving Holidays

Week 16

T, 12-3

Sheck, Island of the Mad, 215-429

Recommended: Praxis Interview Magazine, "Laurie Sheck"

Undergraduate Exam Topics

Graduate Research Paper Proposal Due

R, 12-5

Graduate Research Paper Panel


R, 12-12

Undergraduate Final Exam Due

Graduate Research Paper Due