ENGL379Q - Special Topics in Literature: Narrative Beginnings, Middles, and Ends

“This is not the beginning” are the first words of a novel by Raymond Federman; Beckett’s Endgame begins with the words, “Finished, it’s finished.” This class will explore the varieties of ways that narrative beginnings have been constructed or deferred, unusual narrative progressions have been ordered, and endings have been arranged or eluded. Though we will start with the conventions of realism, we will immediately move on to wilder material. Particular emphasis will be placed on nonrealistic, experimental, and postmodern fiction. (This class is not for the timid.) We will read a relatively straightforward essay each week on beginnings, plot, progression, or endings. These writers will include most of the following: Edward Said, Melba Cuddy-Keane, Peter Rabinowitz, James Phelan, Peter Brooks, Hillis Miller, Susan Winnett, D. A. Miller, and Rachel Blau duPlessis. The works of fiction we will explore include texts by Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, Isak Dinesen, Jorge Luis Borges, Vladimir Nabokov, Maurice Blanchot, Samuel Beckett, Ilse Aichinger, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Anna Kavan, J. G. Ballard, as well as a play by Caryl Churchill or Harold Pinter, an experimental film by Tom Tykwer, a slam poem by Big Poppa E, and a hyperfiction, probably by Stuart Mouthrop. Requirements: 1 midterm, 1 term paper, 1 take-home final, 1 parody.


Two lower-level English courses, at least one in literature; or permission of ARHU-English department.