Dr. Alex E. Blazer Course Site Assignments Description
Materials Assignments Policies Schedule


Tunneling into Funhouses:

Some Postmodern American Literature

English 322-01: American Literature from 1960 to the Present

Spring 2004, TR 4:00-5:15PM, Bingham Humanities Bldg 106


Professor: Alex E. Blazer Office: Bingham Humanities Bldg 336B
Mailbox: Bingham Humanities Bldg 315 Office Hours: TR: 6:00-6:50PM
Email: alex.blazer@louisville.edu Office Phone: 852-1722
Web: www.louisville.edu/~a0blaz01/ Departmental Phone: 852-6801




—William H. Gass, The Tunnel


Course Description


What is postmodern literature? Our class will attempt to answer this question by looking at one version of postmodern literature in poetry, plays, short stories, novels. We will read literature that places language and identity, if not reference in general, in question and at issue. From the fantasia of Angels in America to the game and roleplaying of Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, from the layers of reality in "The Babysitter" to the layers of hypertextuality in Patchwork Girl, from the self-portraits in convex mirrors and the reproduction of profiles of Ashbery and Waldrop to the complete thought and L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E of life of Watten and Hejinian, from Barth's funhouse to Gass's tunnel, we will analyze what happens when literature becomes disseminated/decimated among the white noise of our hypermediated existence. To aid us in our task, we (really, you) will write literary biographies, three papers (including an annotated bibliography and research paper), and a cover letter analyzing what you've learned about the period. Note that this course fulfills a General Education Writing (WR) requirement and is graded on a plus and minus letter grade scale. The prerequisites for this course include both English 102/105 and English 310.


Course Materials


required (bookstore)

Ashbery, Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror

DeLillo, White Noise

Gass, The Tunnel

Hejinian, My Life

Jackson, Patchwork Girl

Kushner, Angels in America, Part One: Millennium Approaches

Stoppard, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead [Note: Stoppard is a naturalized British citizen from Czechoslovakia; he's included in this course because his plays are produced in Britain and America alike and they influence the theme of the course.]

required (online)

Barth, "Lost in the Funhouse"

Coover, "The Babysitter"

Waldrop,The Reproduction of Profiles

Watten, Complete Thought and other poems

recommended (various)

Baum, The Patchwork Girl of Oz (supplement for Jackson; Project Gutenberg)

Kushner, Angels in America, Part Two: Perestroika (supplement for Kushner, Part One; library reserves)

Perelman, "Language Writing and Literary History" (supplement for poetry unit; library reserves)

Shakespeare, Hamlet (supplement for Stoppard; Project Gutenberg)

Shelley, Frankenstein (supplement for Jackson; Project Gutenberg)

various, criticism on Gass, The Tunnel (library reserves)


Assignments and Grade Distribution


Literary Biography, 10%

You will write a 3-4 page (750-1000 word) thematic literary biography of an author we're reading in class.

Paper 1, 20%

The first paper, on a work we've read in class, will be 4-5 pages (1000-1250 words) long.

Paper 2, 25%

The second paper, also on a work we've read in class, will be 5-6 pages (1250-1500 words) long.

Annotated Bibliography, 10%

Annotations of 10 critical sources for possible use in Paper 3.

Paper 3 / Final Portfolio, 35%

The final paper will be a 9-10 page (2250-2500 words) research paper, which must reference at least 4 sources, on a postmodern author, text, or issue of your choosing. The paper will be turned in along with all previous graded assignments (as well as revisions of Papers 1 and 2 if you choose to revise them) in a final portfolio. Introduce your portfolio with a cover letter explaining what you've learned about postmodern literature and the progress of your writing in the course (and the revision rationale for Papers 1 and 2, if you chose to revise them).


Course Policies


Office Hours and Instructor 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 small questions such as due dates over email, but I prefer face-to-face conversations for more substantive topics like papers. I don't check my email on weekends.

Blackboard and Campus Email

All assignments must be turned in via either paper copy or Microsoft Word format in Blackboard. If Blackboard is down, email me your assignment as an attachment. Get in the habit of using Blackboard and your U of L campus email, for those are the systems we'll be using for class communication. Click here for help with your username and password.

Class Participation

We're going to be working with challenging works of literature; therefore, we'll all benefit from sharing our questions and ideas. If I feel that the majority of the class isn't participating because they're not keeping up with the reading, I will give a pop quiz, which will mandate that I reweight paper grades. I don't want to do that and you don't want me to do that, so don't force us into such a situation by falling behind on reading.


There will be a one letter final grade deduction for every unexcused absence beyond four days. Missing seven or more days of class, excused or not, will result in failure of the course. Arriving to class late constitutes a tardy; two tardies equals one absence. Arriving to class more than 15 minutes late or leaving more than 15 minutes early constitutes an absence. Athletic competition, jury duty, illness, and so forth will be excused provided that you bring an official note within one week of your return to class.

Late Assignments

There will be a one-letter grade deduction per day (not class period) for any assignment that is turned in late.


Don't do it. Using someone else's words, ideas, or work without proper citation and representing it as your own is the most serious of academic offenses. See the Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities, sections 5 and 6 in the Undergraduate Catalog. Any proven plagiarism will result in a failing grade for the assignment in question and will be reported to the Committee on Student Discipline for further action, which can include notice in the permanent record, dismissal, or expulsion.

Disabilities Resource Center

If you have any specific needs or concerns, please feel free to discuss the issue with me outside of class. Contact the Disabilities Resource Center (Robbins Hall, 852-6938) for information and auxiliary aid.

Writing Center

The Writing Center (Ekstrom Library, Room 312, 852-2173) provides drop-in assistance for planning, drafting, revising, and editing papers.


Course Schedule


This schedule is subject to change, so listen in class and check online for possible revisions.


Week 1
T, 1-13



R, 1-15
Barth, "Lost in the Funhouse" (online, more info)
Week 2
T, 1-20
DeLillo, White Noise
R, 1-22
DeLillo, continued
Week 3
T, 1-27

Stoppard, Rosencrantz & Guidenstern Are Dead

[recommended: Shakespeare, Hamlet (Project Gutenberg)]

R, 1-29
Stoppard, continued
Week 4
T, 2-3

Stoppard, continued

Paper 1 Prompt

R, 2-5

Kushner, Angels in America, Part One

[recommended: Kushner, Angels in America, Part Two (library reserves)]

Week 5
T, 2-10
Kushner, continued
R, 2-12
Ashbery, Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror

Week 6

T, 2-17

Ashbery, continued

R, 2-19

Ashbery, continued

Paper 1 Due

Week 7
T, 2-24

Language Poetry

Waldrop, The Reproduction of Profiles (online)

[recommended: Perelman, "Language Writing and Literary History" (library reserves)]

R, 2-26

No Class: 20th-Century Literature Conference

***I encourage you to attend some panels on postmodern American literature

Week 8
T, 3-2

Waldrop, continued (re-read Waldrop using class discussion from 2-24 as a guide)

R, 3-4

Hejinian, My Life (more info)

Paper 2 Prompt

Week 9
T, 3-9
Hejinian, continued (re-read Hejinian using class discussion from 3-4 as a guide)
R, 3-11

Watten, Complete Thought and other poems (online)

Week 10
T, 3-16

No Class: Spring Break

***Note: I strongly suggest that you start digging into The Tunnel over the break

R, 3-18
No Class: Spring Break
Week 11
T, 3-23

Watten, continued (re-read Watten using our conversation from 3-11 as a guide)

R, 3-25

Coover, "The Babysitter" (online)

Paper 2 Due

Week 12
T, 3-30

Jackson, Patchwork Girl (more info)

[recommended: Baum, The Patchwork Girl of Oz (Project Gutenberg) and

Shelley, Frankenstein (Project Gutenberg)]

Annotated Bibliography and Paper 3 Prompts

***Meet in Bingham Humanities Bldg 104 (CAI Lab)

R, 4-1

Jackson, Patchwork Girl

***Meet in Bingham Humanities Bldg 104 (CAI Lab)

Week 13
T, 4-6

No Class: Reading Day for Gass, The Tunnel

R, 4-8

Gass, The Tunnel (more info)

[recommended: criticism on The Tunnel (library reserves)]

Week 14
T, 4-13
Gass, continued
R, 4-15
Gass, continued
Week 15
T, 4-20

Gass, continued

Annotated Bibliography and Thesis in Progress Due

R, 4-22

Gass, concluded

Roundtable of Final Paper Topics


Week 16
T, 4-27
No Class: Reading Day
R, 4-29
No Class: Reading Day
T, 5-4
Paper 3 / Portfolio Due