The module will begin by studying some of the major early postmodern writers such as Charles Olson and Alain Robbe-Grillet. This will be followed by a comparative analysis of second-generation postmodern literature in both Europe and the United States, including writers such as Italo Calvino and Thomas Pynchon. The module will also reference postmodern texts in other media such as film (the ‘Free Cinema’ movement) and the visual arts (most notably, Pop Art). Almost from its inception, postmodernism has been subject to theorization and to a highly charged debate over its status as either a radical and liberating movement or as a mere symptom of ‘late capitalism’ and a media-saturated culture in which ‘the medium is the message’. Students will study some of the key theoretical documents on the postmodern, including extracts from the work of Jean Baudrillard, Fredric Jameson and Jean-François Lyotard.
The module will be taught by means of a weekly two-hour seminar
Method of assessment
Indicative Reading List -
• Italo Calvino, If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller trans. William Weaver (Vintage, 1992)
• Angela Carter, The Passion of New Eve (Virago, 1982)
• Carlos Fuentes, The Death of Artemio Cruz, trans. Alfred MacAdam (FSG Classics, 2009)
• Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49 (Vintage, 1996)
• Alain Robbe-Grillet, In the Labyrinth, trans. Christine Brooke-Rose (Oneworld Classics, 2012)
• W.G. Sebald, The Rings of Saturn, trans. Michael Hulse (Vintage, 2002)
See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)
On successful completion of the module students will be able to:
1. show knowledge and critical understanding of the cultural contexts from which postmodernism has emerged and the nature of its relation to those contexts
2. demonstrate the ability to apply accurately a range of theories regarding the precise nature of the postmodernist turn and its relation to the modernism against or through which it defines itself, and to be able to interrogate and explore these theories critically
3. understand the specifically postmodernist treatment of a range of key topics, including identity, gender difference, history, image and reality, and the simulacrum, along with the limitations and complexities of these treatments
4. be able to describe and comment upon the various formal characteristics of postmodernist texts, including the use of mise-en-abyme, self-referentiality, play, pastiche, and the deconstruction of meta-narratives and meta-languages
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