ENGLISH 472 - Twentieth-Century American Literature
Section: 001 Race in 21st-Century American Fiction.
Term: WN 2018
Subject: English Language and Literature (ENGLISH)
Department: LSA English Language & Literature
Requirements & Distribution:
Waitlist Capacity:
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:

This is a survey of some celebrated American novels of the last 10-15 years, focusing on the meaning of race, ethnicity, and racism. What (if anything) does fiction have to tell us about these matters that we can’t learn more efficiently elsewhere? To answer that question, we’ll consider the relationship between social change and fictional form (mainly postmodernism). Topics include race and slavery; religion and ethnicity; gender and sexuality; immigration and left-wing politics; the state and American global power; and the capacity of ordinary people to change the order of things. Of special interest is the rebirth of historical consciousness—the return to the past to mirror the present; to understand how things got to be the way they are; to recover a time when things were different, so as to encourage hope as well as creative thinking about the present and future; or to excavate events that have been ignored, forgotten, or repressed, so as to deal with them directly today. We will accordingly ask how effective the recourse to (fictional) history is in addressing racism in the present.


Junot Díaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Michael Chabon, Gentlemen of the Road

Toni Morrison, A Mercy

Louise Erdrich, The Plague of Doves

Julie Otsuka, The Buddha in the Attic

Colson Whitehead, The Underground Railroad

Mohsin Hamid, Exit West

Course Requirements:

a) Attendance and regular participation in discussion

b) 15-18 pages of writing: either two 5- to 6-page papers plus a take-home final of the same length; or one 10- to 12-page paper plus a 5- to 6-page take-home final

Intended Audience:

English majors and others interested in the topic

Class Format:

Lecture and discussion

ENGLISH 472 - Twentieth-Century American Literature
Schedule Listing
001 (REC)
TuTh 11:30AM - 1:00PM
NOTE: Data maintained by department in Wolverine Access. If no textbooks are listed below, check with the department.

ISBN: 9780345502070
Gentlemen of the road, Author: Michael Chabon ; illustrated by Gary Gianni., Publisher: Ballantine Books Del Rey Bo 2008
ISBN: 9781594483295
The brief wondrous life of Oscar Wao, Author: Junot Diaz., Publisher: Riverhead Books 1st Riverh 2008
ISBN: 9780060515133
The plague of doves, Author: Louise Erdrich., Publisher: Harper Perennial 1st Harper 2009
ISBN: 9780735216648
Exit West, Author: Hamid, Mohsin, Publisher: Riverhead 2017
ISBN: 9780307276766
A mercy, Author: Toni Morrison., Publisher: Vintage International 1st Vintag 2009
ISBN: 9780307744425
The Buddha in the attic, Author: Julie Otsuka., Publisher: Anchor Books 1st ed. 2012
ISBN: 9780708898406
The Underground Railroad, Author: Whitehead, Colson, Publisher: Little Brown 2017
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