ENGLISH 472 - Twentieth-Century American Literature
Winter 2018, Section 001 - Race in 21st-Century American Fiction.
Instruction Mode: Section 001 is (see other Sections below)
Subject: English Language and Literature (ENGLISH)
Department: LSA English Language & Literature
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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)
 In Person
TuTh 11:30AM - 1:00PM
1/3/18 - 4/17/18

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