History, Memory, and the Contemporary Novel


Course Abstract

Spring 2012 –┬áCOMPLIT 199

The watershed events of the twentieth century, the philosophic ‘linguistic turn’ and the debate regarding ‘the end of history’ have all left their mark on the novel. This seminar will ask: how does the contemporary i.e. post-1945 novel engage with modern, man-made disasters such as the World Wars or 9/11 and its aftermath? How does its interest in memory and history relate to our late- or postmodern culture of time, to political and ethical concerns? How does the novel expand our view regarding who we are and who we may become? How does the novel, by revisiting modernity’s abysmal past raise contemporary political and ethical concerns? Readings will include novels by W. G. Sebald, J. M. Coetzee, Kazuo Ishiguro, and Ian McEwan, and theoretical works by Hannah Arendt, Hayden White, Walter Benjamin, Fredric Jameson, Walter Benn Michaels, and others.

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