English 6685: Graduate Seminar in Critical Approaches to Literature, Fall 2009

Section 01 (CRN 81380): M 5:30-8:15PM, Arts & Sciences 215


Professor: Dr. Alex E. Blazer

Phone: 478.445.0964

Office: Arts & Sciences 330


Office Hours: M 3:30-5:15PM,

TR 2:30-3:20PM, and by appt



Course Description


The graduate course catalog describes English 6685 as "an intense study of the scholarly criticism of selected primary works." This section will focus on the metafiction, pastich, paradox, fragmentariness, hyperreality, and ontological instability of the postmodern novel. After defining postmodernism, we study both theory and criticism of the postmodern novel. A typical class period will consist of three discussions: 1) the week's novel, 2) a theoretical article useful in interpreting the novel, and 3) scholarly criticism of the novel. Assignments include a appreciation and interrogation responses, a book review, and a seminar paper. This course's Academic Assessment page describes our topics:

as well as expected course outcomes:

Course Materials


required (GCSU Bookstore or

Acker, Blood and Guts in High School

Auster, The New York Trilogy

Barth, Lost in the Funhouse

Chabon, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

(Chabon's novel may be substituted for a 2009 novel chosen by the class)

Danielewski, House of Leaves

DeLillo, White Noise

Morrison, Beloved

Nabokov, Pale Fire

Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow

Reed, Mumbo Jumbo

required (GALILEO and GeorgiaView)

literary criticism and theory


MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 7th ed.

Orr, Don DeLillo's White Noise: A Reader's Guide

Weisenburger, A Gravity's Rainbow Companion: Sources and Contexts


Assignments and Grade Distribution


Appreciations and Interrogations, 5% each, 30% total

You will write three appreciations and three interrogations, 2-3 pages each, of critical interpretations of our postmodern novels. Appreciations summarize the article's critical methodology and and enhance its literary interpretation; interrogations question the methodology and contest the interpretation.

book review, 10%

You will write a 4-6 page book review like those published in scholarly journals. Choose a book written on one of our primary texts or a book written on postmodern theory.

annotated bibliography, 10%

You will research and annotate 15 sources to help you write your seminar paper. At least 10 of the sources should be criticism of the primary text and some sources may be theoretical articles you will apply to your interpretation of the primary text. Each 75-100 word annotation should provide the source's interpretive thesis and methodology and also tell how the source could be helpful for your seminar paper.

seminar paper, 40%

You will write a 15-20 page seminar paper entering, engaging, and advancing the scholarly discourse of a postmodern novel either discussed in class or selected by you and approved by the professor. Your essay should be worthy of being presented at a conference, integrate at least seven secondary sources, and apply at least two theoretical articles. You will also submit a 250 word conference proposal/abstract and read 10 pages of your work-in-progress paper for class (and perhaps class visitors) question and answer, akin to a conference panel.


Course Policies


Class Preparation and Participation

The small class size of this reading and discussion intensive graduate seminar requires each of us to come to class having read, annotated, and reviewed the week's material.

Office Hours and Professor Email

I encourage you to stop by my office hours to discuss any aspect of the course, literature, or life. I'm happy to answer minor questions such as due dates over email, but I prefer face-to-face conversations for more substantive topics like papers and exams. Please use email etiquette.

GeorgiaVIEW and Student Email

We will be using GeorgiaVIEW for assignment upload and GCSU email for class communication (please do not send email inside GeorgiaVIEW). It is your responsibility to learn GeorgiaView as well as to check your university email for possible course related messages.

MLA Style

Formal assignments should adhere to the Modern Language Association (MLA) style. Formal papers and take-home exams require MLA style while in-class exams; discussion board responses, informal writing, and peer review may be informally formatted. 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) header, heading, and title, 2) margins, font, and line-spacing, and 3) quotation and citation format. Before you turn in a formal paper, make sure your work follows MLA style by using the checklist on the MLA style handout. I encourage students to use my MS Word template.


Because our seminar is discussion-centered and meets once per week, and since two of those weeks are already cancled due to Labor Day and fall break, attendance is mandatory and students have only one skip day. Missing two class periods will result in a one letter final grade deduction and missing two three classes will result in a two letter grade penalty and so forth. Habitual tardies, consistently leaving class early, texting, and surfing the internet will be treated as absences. Excuses like work, family, and scheduled doctor's appointments will be declined. The only acceptable excuses are death in one's immediate family and one's own medical emergency. If you participate in an extracurricular activity that you anticipate will cause you to miss class, I suggest you switch sections now. You can check your attendance online by looking for your course number and the last four digits of your student identification number.

Late Assignments

There will be a one letter assignment grade deduction per day (not class period) for any assignment that is turned in late. I sparingly give short extensions if you request one for a valid need; however you must make the request 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. I neither read nor grade assignments that are turned in more than five days late for whatever reason, be it extension or computer error. Failing to submit (or resubmit) an assignment that is worth 15% or more of the course grade within five days (not class periods) of its due date will result in automatic failure of the course. Failing to submit (or resubmit) a final exam or final paper within two days of its due date will result in automatic failure of the course.


Do not do it. 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." Section 3.01 of the Academic Affairs Handbook elaborates other examples of academic dishonesty and outlines disciplinary procedures and appeals for academic misconduct. As plagiarism is not tolerated at GCSU, any student found guilty of willful plagiarism will fail the assignment and the course.

Failure of the Course

There are three ways to fail the course: 1) failing to regularly attend class, 2) plagiarizing, 3) 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 last day to add a course is Friday, August 21. The last day to drop a course without fee penalty is Friday, August 21. The last day to withdraw without academic penalty (unless previously assigned an F by professor for absences) is Friday, October 16.

Disability Services

In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and GCSU's Policy For Students with Disabilities that Affect Learning, if there is a student in this class who has a disability that may affect her learning and progress, please meet with me so we can discuss your particular needs. Notification will be kept confidential. Students with disabilities should also contact Mike Chambers, or 445-5931, at Disability Services in Maxwell Student Union 133.

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 Lanier Hall 209, the Center is open Monday through Friday. Call 445-3370 or email for more information.

Special Notice to Students in the Arts & Sciences Building

In the event of a fire alarm signal students should exit the building in a quick and orderly manner through the nearest hallway exit.  First and Second floor classes should exit through ground level exits; Third floor classes through nearest stairwell to a ground level exit.  Do not use elevator.  Third floor stairwells are areas where disabled people may communicate with rescue workers.  Be familiar with the floorplan and exits of this building.


Course Schedule


Week 1
M, 8-17

Novel: Nabokov, Pale Fire (1962)

Criticism: Hennard, "Playing a Game of Worlds in Nabokov’s Pale Fire" (Nathan)

Pier, "Between Text and Paratext: Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire" (Stephen)

Galef, "The Self-Annihilating Artists of Pale Fire" (Matt)

Wilson, "Character-Worlds in Pale Fire" (Sal)

Week 2
M, 8-24

Short Story Collection : Barth, Lost in the Funhouse (1969)

Period: Connor, "Postmodernism and Literature" (Nathan)

Lewis, "Postmodernism and Fiction" (Stephen)

McHale, "Some Postmodernist Stories" (Matt and Jonathan)

Storey, "Postmodernism" (Sal)

Theory: Hutcheon, "Modes and Forms of Narrative Narcissism: Introduction of a Typology" (Stephen, Matt, and Jonathan)

Waugh, "Literary Self-Consciousness: Developments" (Nathan and Sal)

Criticism: Morris, "Barth and Lacan: The World of the Moebius Strip" (Nathan-A1, Jonathan-A1, and Stephen-A1)

Woolley, "Empty 'Text,' Fecund Voice: Self-Reflexivity in Barth's Lost in the Funhouse" (Matt-A1 and Sal-A1)

Week 3
M, 8-31

Novel: Reed, Mumbo Jumbo (1972)

Criticism: Hogue, "Postmodernism, Traditional Culture Forms, and the African American Narrative: Major's Reflex, Morrison's Jazz, and Reed's Mumbo Jumbo"

Martin, "Hoodoo as Literary Method: Ishmael Reed's 'True Afro-American Aesthetic"

McCoy, "Paratext, Citation, and Academic Desire in Ishmael Reed's Mumbo Jumbo"

read two of the three essays and write Appreciation 2 on essay of your choice

Week 4
M, 9-7

No Class: Labor Day

Week 5
M, 9-14

Novel: Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow (1973)

Part 1 Beyond the Zero (1-180)

Part 2 Un Perm' au Casino Hermann Goering (181-282)

Recommended: Weisenburger, A Gravity's Rainbow Companion

Thomas R. Pynchon: Spermatikos Logos

Theory: Lyotard, "Answering the Question: What Is Postmodernism?"

Jameson, "Postmodernism, or The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism"

Week 6

M, 9-21

Novel: Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow (1973)

Part 3 In the Zone (283-628)

Theory: Derrida, "Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences"

Tyson, "Deconstructive Criticism"

Recommended: Derrida (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

Tanner, "Gravity's Rainbow: An Experience in Modern Reading"

Week 7
M, 9-28

Novel: Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow

Part 4 The Counterforce (629-776)

Criticism: Herman, "Parody in Gravity's Rainbow (1973) by Thomas Pynchon"

Melley, "Bodies Incorporated: Scenes of Agency Panic in Gravity's Rainbow"

Russell, "Pynchon's Language: Signs, Systems, and Subversion"

Weisenburger, "The End of History? Thomas Pynchon and the Uses of the Past"

read two of the articles and write Appreciation 3 on essay of your choice

Week 8
M, 10-5

Novel: Acker, Blood and Guts in High School (1984)

Theory: Cixous, "The Laugh of the Medusa"

Criticism: Brennan, "The Geography of Enunciation: Hysterical Pastiche in Kathy Acker's Fiction"

Dane, "Hysteria as Feminist Protest: Dora, Cixous, Acker"

Hawkins, "All in the Family: Kathy Acker's Blood and Guts in High School"

Hume, "Voice in Kathy Acker's Fiction."

read two of the articles and write Interrogation 1 on essay of your choice

Week 9
M, 10-12
No Class: Fall Break
Week 10
M, 10-19

Novel: DeLillo, White Noise (1986)

Recommended: Orr, Don DeLillo's White Noise

Book Reviews from Textual Practice

Theory: Baudrillard, "Simulacra and Simulations"

Criticism: LeClair, "Closing the Loop: White Noise" (DeLillo 387-412)

Duvall, "The (Super)Marketplace of Images: Television as Unmediated Mediation in DeLillo's White Noise" (DeLillo 432-55)

Bonca, "Don DeLillo's White Noise: The Natural Language of the Species" (DeLillo 456-79)

Maltby, "The Romantic Metaphysics of Don DeLillo" (DeLillo 498-516)

read two of the articles and write Interrogation 2 on essay of your choice

Week 11
M, 10-26

Novel: Auster, The New York Trilogy (1986)

Theory Overview: Blazer, "Lecture 6 Deconstruction"

Selden, Widdowson, and Brooker, "Poststructuralist Theories"

Connor, "Structuralism and Post-Structuralism: From the Centre to the Margin"

Criticism: De Los Santos, "Auster vs. Chandler or: Cracking the Case of the Postmodern Mystery"

Rubenstein, "Doubling, Intertextuality, and the Postmodern Uncanny: Paul Auster's New York Trilogy"

Russell, "Deconstructing The New York Trilogy: Paul Auster's Anti-Detective Fiction"

read two of the articles

Book Review Due

Week 12
M, 11-2

Novel: Morrison, Beloved (1987)

Theory Overview: Blazer, "Lecture 1 Psychoanalysis"

Sarup, "Lacan and Psychoanalysis"

Blazer, "Lecture 3 Feminism"

Sarup, "Cixous, Irigaray, Kristeva: French Feminist Theories"

Criticism: Boudreau, "Pain and the Unmaking of Self in Toni Morrison's Beloved"

Davis, "'Postmodern Blackness': Toni Morrison's Beloved and the End of History"

Fuston-White, "'From the Seen to the Told': The Construction of Subjectivity in Toni Morrison's Beloved"

read two of the articles and write Interrogation 3 on essay of your choice

Week 13
M, 11-9

Novel: Danielewski, House of Leaves (2000) (1-346)

Week 14
M, 11-16

Danielewski, House of Leaves (2000) (347-709)

Criticism: Graulund, "Text and Paratext in Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves"

Hansen, "The Digital Topography of Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves"

Hayles, "Saving the Subject: Remediation in House of Leaves"

Slocombe, "'This Is Not for You': Nihilism and the House That Jacques Built"

read two of the articles

Annotated Bibliography Due

Week 15
M, 11-23

Novel: Chabon, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (2000)

Seminar Paper Proposal/Abstract Due

Week 16
M, 11-30

Seminar Paper Presentation Due

M, 12-7

Seminar Paper Due by 5:30PM