ENGLISH 318 - Genre Studies
Section: 001 20th Century American Comic Fiction
Term: WN 2012
Subject: English Language and Literature (ENGLISH)
Department: LSA English Language & Literature
Requirements & Distribution:
Waitlist Capacity:
With permission of instructor.
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:

In Lorrie Moore’s short story “Real Estate,” a character laughs “HA” 1140 consecutive times. Is the several-page stretch funny? Painful? Both? In this course, we’ll discuss novels and short stories (by Kurt Vonnegut, Lydia Davis, George Saunders, Don DeLillo, and others) that present similar conundrums. And we’ll look at the strategies that make fiction so well equipped to straddle the line between what’s funny and what’s frightening.

Critics such as Charles Baudelaire, Henri Bergson, and Northrop Frye will assist us in our thinking. Assignments will include reading responses, imitations, presentations, and a final paper. We’ll attempt, of course, to keep our wits about us.


  1. Cat’s Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut
  2. The Crying of Lot 49, Thomas Pynchon
  3. White Noise, Don DeLillo
  4. Birds of America, Lorrie Moore
  5. Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, David Foster Wallace
  6. The Freddie Stories, Lynda Barry
  7. Humor Me: An Anthology of Funny Contemporary Writing, Ian Frazier, ed.
  8. In Persuasion Nation, George Saunders

Course Requirements:

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Class Format:

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ENGLISH 318 - Genre Studies
Schedule Listing
001 (LEC)
MW 1:00PM - 2:30PM
NOTE: Data maintained by department in Wolverine Access. If no textbooks are listed below, check with the department.

ISBN: 9780385333481
Cat's cradle, Author: Vonnegut, Kurt., Publisher: Delta Trade Paperbacks 1998
ISBN: 9780060913076
The crying of lot 49, Author: Pynchon, Thomas., Publisher: Perennial Library 1986
ISBN: 9780670803736
White noise, Author: DeLillo, Don., Publisher: Viking 1985
Other Textbook Editions OK.
ISBN: 0307474968
Birds of America : stories, Author: Lorrie Moore., Publisher: Vintage Contemporaries 1st Vintag 2010
ISBN: 0316925195
Brief interviews with hideous men, Author: David Foster Wallace., Publisher: Back Bay Books 1st Back B 2007
ISBN: 159448242X
In persuasion nation : stories, Author: by George Saunders., Publisher: Riverhead Books 1st Riverh 2007
ISBN: 0061728950
Humor Me., Author: edited by Ian Frazier., Publisher: Ecco Pr 1st ed. 2010
Other Textbook Editions OK.
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