Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College


English 346. Postmodern American Literature: The Pursuit of Meaning: Process and Provocation

Postmodern texts and films undermine the linear sequences of cause and effect that we find in traditional fictions. They often defy normal logic, and since language is built on grammatical logic—a subject, a verb, the action upon an object—how can we ever get a grip on what appears to be non-rational, random and unprecedented? How do structure and styles change to accommodate this new perspective? Postmodernism also wrestles with the unknowability and inaccessibility of other people and ourselves.

We will explore some quantum theory, deconstruction, psychological theory and other critical approaches as a way of analyzing and grappling with these fictions. Writers will include Thomas Pynchon, Joan Didion, Paul Auster, Tim O’Brien, Don DeLillo and others as well as such films as “The Master” and “Inception.”

Classes involve discussion, student-led book and film panels, two short papers and a self-scheduled final exam.

(Previously Contemporary American Fiction: Quirks, Quarks and Quests, or Sex, Lies and Quantum Leaps)