What is the course about?
An exploration of some of the influential works of fiction in contemporary American literature from the end of the 20th century to the decades of the new millennium, considering the authors and their writing within their social and historical context.
Patricia Sweeney is Programme Coordinator for Literature and Film at City Lit, with specialist teaching interests in modern and contemporary literature, drama and film adaptation. In addition to her work at City Lit, Patricia has taught literature courses for the Open University and Literature, Drama and Film courses for Birkbeck, University of London.
What will we cover?
We will consider the social and cultural concerns that are producing a vibrant fictional landscape as well as exploring narrative structure, character and language in the selected texts.
We will be reading and exploring two books by authors who have made an impact on the American literary scene:
Philip Roth's second novel of the American trilogy, 'I Married a Communist' (1999)
"Here are the controlling impulses of the great American novel - passion, intelligence and guts. Here is Roth, in love as ever with the rapture of America, giving speech to the immigrants who felt for the first time in their lives like bigshots. Here's Roth, probingly political, demonstrating how our psyches can't help but be conditioned by history."
-Linda Grant, 'The Guardian'
Jennifer Egan's 2011 Pulitzer prize winning novel, 'A Visit from the Goon Squad was inspired by (according to the author), Proust's 'In Search of Lost Time' and HBO's 'The Sopranos'. "That shouldn't make sense but it does, 'Goon Squad' is a book about memory and kinship, time and narrative, continuity and disconnection, in which relationships shift and recombine kaleidoscopically." - Sarah Churchwell, 'The Observer'
"Egan commemorates not only the fading of a cultural glory but also of the economic and political supremacy that underpinned it." - 'London Review of Books'
"Egan's writing is remarkable for its ability to anchor postmodern trickery to more reassuringly solid novelistic virtues…" - Tom Shone, 'Sunday Times'
"Thriftily evokes many disparate American lives in less than 300 pages, vividly showing how the vitures of the realist tradition, historical depth and strong point of view can be combined with a modernist aesthetic of fragmentation and dissolution." - Pankaj Mishra, 'The Guardian'
A selection of contemporary short fiction will also be included.
What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...
-Extend your reading of contemporary American fiction
-Recognise and respond to the works of the writers
-Evaluate and discuss the work in a more informed manner
-Identify the works of important American fiction in the new millennium.
What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?
You will need an enthusiasm for reading and discussing a range of texts in large and small groups.
You will be willing and able to do some reading and preparation outside the class.
You will be interested in listening to, and learning from, the responses of other students to the work discussed.
You will have a commitment to developing your analytical skills.
How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?
A mixture of lecture, discussion, reading, large and small group work. There will be reading homework each week.
Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?
-Bring pen and paper.
-Please buy or borrow two texts:
Philip Roth's 'I Married a Communist' (1999)/Vintage 2005
Jennifer Egan's 'A Visit from the Goon Squad' (2010)/Corsair 2011
Short fiction will be provided by the lecturer.
When I've finished, what course can I do next?
Have a look at all our Literature courses in History, Culture and Writing on www.citylit.ac.uk or under Humanities in the prospectus.
General information and advice on courses at City Lit is available from the Student Centre and Library on Monday to Friday from 12:00 – 19:00.
See the course guide for term dates and further details