ENGL433 - American Literature: 1914 to the Present, the Modern Period
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Prerequisite: Two English courses in literature; or permission of ARHU-English department.

Modernism, Postmodernism. Writers such as Stevens, Stein, Ellison.

When President Kennedy died in 1963, millions mourned, drawn together in tragedy via their televisions and radios. When France was struck by terrorist attacks in 2015, the world checked the internet for updates, and Parisians used social media to let loved ones know they were safe and to offer shelter to those in need. Media also plays a role in much happier occasions – watching a favorite team win the Super Bowl, live streaming a big concert, or even wishing a friend happy birthday on Facebook. Indeed, media has long been an important mode of information dissemination, and it does more than simply rely news and ideas:as Benedict Anderson has noted, media also creates a sense of community, and it shapes the way we understand and perceive the world.

The twentieth century witnessed unprecedented transformations in media use and technology, from increased newspaper distribution to radio to film to television to the internet. Such networks, in turn, influence literary production. This class will investigate how twentieth and twenty-first century American literature reacts to and interacts with media technologies and representations. From radio adaptations to graphic novels, from modernist collage to postmodern pastiche, from World War I to dystopian futures, we will parse how media frames our lives and how literature responds to such varied modes for representing modern life.

Potential texts include: John Dos Passos’s 1919, H.G. Well’s The War of the Worlds (and Orson Welles’s famous radio adaptation of it), Watchmen (an early graphic novel), Kurt Vonnegut’s short stories, Shelley Jackson’s Patchwork Girl (a hypertext), Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story, and Sherman Alexie’s The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven (and the corresponding movie, Smoke Signals).