Postmodernist Fiction

English 5321.252     Spring 2015

Professor Paul Cohen                 Office: FH358

Phone: 245-7685                     Email:

  Office hours: M-Th 1:00-2:00 and by appointment

Course Web site:


DESCRIPTION: This seminar will provide an introduction to some of the most extraordinary and exciting types of innovative fiction of the past fifty years.

TEXTBOOKS :            

Jorge Luis Borges:                           Labyrinths

Thomas Pynchon:                            The Crying of Lot 49

Vladimir Nabokov:                          Pale Fire

Italo Calvino:                          If on a winter's night a traveler

Lydia Davis:                          The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis

Tom McCarthy:                             Remainder

Georges Perec:                          Life a User's Manual

Much supplementary material will be available through an extensive course Web site.

REQUIREMENTS :  You will write two papers on postmodern writing: a shorter one on an assigned topic, due on February 15, and one on a topic of your choice, due on April 19. You will submit the papers electronically. You will write a take-home Final Examination essay due on May 7. The first paper and the Exam will each count as 25% of your course grade, and the long paper will count as 50%.



John Cage: Organ2/ASLSP

Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji: Opus Clavicembalisticum (John Ogdon, piano)




This schedule will definitely change as the course moves on. I will announce upcoming changes in class, and you will be responsible for knowing about them and coming to class prepared.

January 22: Modernism and Postmodernism

January 29: Theory
Susan Sontag: "Against Interpretation"
Jean Baudrillard: from Simulations
William Spanos: "The Detective and the Boundary: Some Notes on the Postmodern Literary Imagination" (JSTOR)
Brian McHale: from Postmodernist Fiction

February 5: Jorge Luis Borges
"Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius"
"The Garden of Forking Paths"
"Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote
“Funes the Memorious”
“The Secret Miracle”
"Partial Magic in the Quixote"
“Kafka and His Precursors”

February 12: Vladimir Nabokov: Pale Fire

February 19: Lydia Davis
"Mr. Burdoff's Visit to Germany"
"The Letter"
"Cockroaches in Autumn"
"City Employment"
"Two Sisters"
"The Mother"
"French Lesson I: Le Meurtre"
"The Center of the Story"
"To Reiterate"
"Almost No Memory"

February 26: Thomas Pynchon: The Crying of Lot 49

March 5: Lydia Davis
"Glenn Gould"
" The Outing"
"A Mown Lawn"
"Our Trip"
"Certain Knowledge fropm Herodotus"
"Samuel Johnson Is Indignant"
"First Grade: Handwriting Practice"
"Happiest Moment"
"Jury Duty"
"Letter to a Funeral Parlor"

March 12: Italo Calvino: If on a winter’s night a traveler

March 26: Georges Perec: Life a User's Manual

April 2: Georges Perec: Life a User's Manual

April 9: Lydia Davis
"Murder in Bohemia"
"Oral History (with Hiccups)"
"The Transformation"
"Jane and the Cane"
"Southward Bound, reads Worstward Ho"
"The Walk"
"Mother's Reaction to My Travel Plans"
"Suddenly Afraid"
"Index Entry"

April 16: Postmodern poetry, art. music, and film

April 23: Tom McCarthy: Remainder

April 23: Tom McCarthy: Remainder and conclusions

May 7: Final Examination due at 10:30 pm

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