Instructor:  Jake Jakaitis

Meeting Time:  12:00-2:20 M Tu W Th F

Office:  RO A-209

Classroom:  Holmstedt Hall 0020

Dates: Monday, July 6, through Friday, July 31.

Final Exam: Friday, July 31.

Office Hours: 11:00-12:00 TU & W; 3:00-4:00 Th; & by appointment

E-mail Address jake.jakaitis@indstate.edu

Office Telephone:  812-237-3269

Home Page:  isu.indstate.edu/jakaitis



English 444/544:  American Literature from 1945 to the Present examines American fiction, drama, and poetry from World War II to the present, emphasizing fiction and especially narrative form in the era following modernism.  While the course is essentially a reading intensive survey, we necessarily must abandon the notion of "coverage" that governs traditional survey courses, for we cannot, confronted by a body of work too recent to have been sufficiently winnowed by formal canonization processes, "cover" all of the authors and movements responding to literary modernism in a short summer session.  Instead, we will attempt an admittedly reductive literary and cultural history, examining the initial postwar resistance to literary modernism through works by Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, Saul Bellow, Grace Paley, and the Beats; formal dramatic experimentation through Edward Albee and Amiri Baraka [LeRoi Jones] and the metafictional "break" with modernism through short fiction by John Barth, Donald Barthelme, and Robert Coover; postmodern fiction through Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49; and Don DeLillo's and David Foster Wallace's work as reactions to postmodern experimentation.

In addition to the primary works by these authors, we will cover criticism, theoretical essays, interviews with authors, and biographies to establish cultural, historical and personal contexts for examining the literature.  Our motive, however, will not be to read the author's lives through their works but instead, to read culture and a developing literary tradition through these varied texts.  Perhaps we can take our cue from Thomas Bernhard, the prominent Austrian writer whose
biography by Gitta Honegger opens with the following comment:

I hate books and articles that begin with a date of birth.  Altogether, I hate books and articles that adopt a biographical and chronological approach; that strikes me as the most tasteless and at the same time most unintellectual procedure.  [NYRB, 11 January 2007:  46)

While our syllabus is roughly chronologically ordered, and while our readings include biographical statements and interviews, Bernhard's statement and his biographer's emphasis on biography and literature as means for exploring cultural history might impact the way that we respond to our readings, the manner in which we experience them and the uses to which we put them.  That same relatively recent issue of the New York Review of Books includes an article promoting a new edition of Eric Auerbach's seminal 1961 work on Dante:  Dante:  Poet of the Secular World.  In the review article, a preliminary version of the new edition's introduction, Michael Dirga comments on Auerbach's method in his best known work, Mimesis:  The Representation of Reality in Western Literature:

Building on the stylistic quirks, lacunae, and emphases in his carefully chosen authors, Auerbach gradually discloses their underlying suppositions about what art should do and how people and events can be represented in language at a specific moment in history.  For example, by examining a dinner scene from Stendhal's The Red and the Black, then comparing it with similar short passages in Balzac and Flaubert, Auerbach reveals the foundations of nineteenth century realism.  (54)

It is no accident, in my view, that these two review articles, expressing these emphases, appear in the same issue of NYRB.  They evidence what many of us have probably seen in recent criticism and scholarship:  a critical turn away from theoretical abstraction, from the dominance of theory in literary scholarship of recent decades, and a return to more conventional close reading, but a return influenced by cultural studies, by the desire to create through literary and cultural analysis understandings of cultural history and to lay bare, in Raymond Williams's terms, the "structure of feeling" of a given era.

This is the approach that I'd like us to take in this course.  Our inquiries should not be an attempt to collect knowledge about each of the major figures in the period, but an inquiry into the period itself, an intellectual engagement with the structure of feeling of postwar America and the decades that followed through our engagement with American literature from 1945 to the present.


Bellow, Saul.  Seize the Day.  Penguin.  0-14-243761-1
DeLillo, Don.  Falling Man.  Scribner.  978-1-4165-4606-1
Ginsberg, Allen.  Howl and Other Poems.  City Lights.  0-87286-017-5
Kerouac, Jack.  On the Road.  Penguin.  0-14-243725-5
Miller, Arthur.  Death of a Salesman:  Text and Criticism.  Penguin.  0-14-024773
Pynchon, Thomas.  The Crying of Lot 49.  Harper & Row.  0-06-091307-x
Williams, Tennessee. The Glass Menagerie. New Directions. 0-8112-1404-4

Professor’s Pack of short readings. [Available at Big Picture Printing, Northwest Corner of Spruce and 13th Streets. Telephone: 812-235-0202. Do not call Big Picture until I announce that the professor’s pack is ready.]


Attendance and Participation [20%]

Attendance: Full attendance is expected.  Because we will open most class sessions with a daily writing assignment or quiz, punctuality is crucial to your success.  If you arrive late, it will be impossible to give you additional time to complete the assignment and since the class discussion following each writing assignment or quiz will rely on students’ responses to the assignment, completing the work after class is not an acceptable option.  If you accumulate 3 unexcused absences, you will fail this course.  Of course, all absences, excused or unexcused, affect your grade because each absence reduces your quiz and participation score.  If you have an excused absence for medical or other University approved reasons, it is your responsibility to make up missed work by appointment with me as soon as is possible.  Attendance will count for 10% of the course grade.

Participation:  Much of our time will be spent discussing the assigned readings.  Exemplary performance in these activities will demonstrate that you are effectively preparing and thinking about the material and will significantly increase your participation score.  After each class meeting, I will assign participation points to students who actively comment on the readings and promote meaningful discussion related to the specified goals of the course. At semester's end, I will assign you a letter grade for participation based on your accumulated point total. It is in your best interest to take notes as you read and come to class prepared to ask questions or provoke discussion.  These practices will also prepare you to perform well on the final examination.  I encourage you to meet with me if you are having difficulty with the course or if you would like to discuss aspects of the assigned reading that were not covered in class. If you wish to meet with me but cannot attend my office hours, please arrange a conference with me at a more convenient time.  If you do intend to meet with me during one of my office hours, it is best to let me know that you are coming so that I can reserve the time for you.  This brief summer session will go by rather quickly; please see me immediately if you begin having difficulty with any of the course materials.  Participation will account for 10% of your course grade.

Professional Courtesy:  You will be expected to behave professionally in this college classroom.  Turn off cell phones before entering the room.  From the moment that you enter the classroom, you should be focused on the materials and assignments in this course.  Reading of newspapers or other material not directly related to work in this course will not be allowed in the classroom--neither before class has started, nor during our formal class session.   If you are interested in reading newspapers or other materials unrelated to this course as you wait for class to begin, do so outside the classroom. Students who behave rudely, or who have to be asked to put down newspapers or other reading materials will lose participation points.  Under extreme circumstances, such students will be removed from the classroom or dropped from this course.  Laptops may be used for note taking and for review of course materials posted in our on-line syllabus or for searches during class to support our discussions.  However, this privilege will be revoked for anyone using a laptop for e-mail, instant messaging, or any purpose not directly related to the ongoing class discussion.  If laptop use appears to become a problem, I reserve the right to demand that an individual immediately turn the display toward me for inspection.  Any student viewing material irrelevant to this course will be removed from the class.

Daily Writing and Quizzes (30%)

Class meetings will often open with a writing assignment or quiz.  These short examinations will either ask you to respond briefly to a few factual questions [usually 10] about the assigned reading, or require short essay responses that analyze and interpret assigned readings.  The latter responses must begin with topic sentences that directly answer the question and then supply specific story details to support the topic.  Simply quickly reading the assigned stories will not prepare you to score well on these quizzes.  Instead, you must actively consider study questions, literary techniques, plot structures and conflicts, thematic concerns, or the relation of the assigned reading to material presented in lectures and discussions of previously assigned works.  Missed quizzes cannot be made up unless you have a medical, family emergency, or ISU program excuse.

Short Essay [25%]:  A five-page paper (1500 word minimum) will be due no later than Friday, July 24.  You may, of course, submit your paper any time before July 24.  If you develop an interest in a particular text or author early in the course, discuss your idea for a paper with me and complete and submit the work early.  This is not intended to be a research project.  Instead, present a close reading of a single work or of a few related poems.  You might include some biographical or historical information, or you might use passages found in one of our author interviews as opportunities to initiate your close reading.  However, do not turn this short writing assignment into an extended research project.  The aim of the short paper is to explore a theme, formal concern, question, or issue relevant to a particular author's work.  For the format of the paper, see the comments below on the graduate student seminar paper.  For graduate students, the short paper may not be a draft of the final seminar paper.

Final Examination [25%]:  Our final examination, consisting of short answer and essay questions, is scheduled for Friday, July 31, at 12:00 in our classroom.  Since the short answer section of this exam will ask you to identify quotations, it is a good idea to note those passages in the assigned readings that we discuss in class. Graduate students will complete the 10-page seminar paper instead of taking the final examination.

Graduate Student Seminar Paper [25%]:  This 10-page paper [3000 word minimum] will be a researched examination of a particular author's work.  This must be a different author than the one covered in the short paper. The essay should involve a well-researched address to a single author, playwright, or poet studied in the course.  While the project may be an examination of a single work, it should situate that work [a novel, a collection of poems, a play or series of plays] both within the author's larger body of work and within broader cultural or literary contexts.  For example, you might address the relation of a particular work and author to formal experimentation, to a movement or emphasis [theater of the absurd, metafiction, postmodernism, minimalist fiction, etc...], or to recurring themes or issues in the author's developing body of work. You have all written seminar papers before.  The principal idea is to develop a preliminary plan, meet with me to discuss it [preferably with a brief written explanation], and get my approval for your final project.  Since this is a short summer session, I encourage graduate students to identify an emphasis for the short paper early in the course, and to present me a paper proposal no later than the end of week three. The paper will be due no later than Friday, July 31.

Papers will be typed, double-spaced, using Times New Roman 12 or Cambria 12 font and 1" margins on all 4 sides of the page and documented according to MLA style.  Submissions with larger or odd font styles or those with margins wider than 1" will not be accepted. All papers will be submitted to me as a Microsoft Word file by e-mail attachment.

Academic Dishonesty:  Plagiarism or cheating on papers will result in failure in the course.


This is a tentative schedule of readings and course assignments subject to change over the course of the summer session. It is your responsibility to attend regularly, and to adjust to changes in the reading or assignment schedule. Any changes will be posted at my website: http://isu.indstate.edu/jakaitis. Please check the website regularly, for I will often post additional study questions, author interviews, or criticism.

DATE              ASSIGNMENT


7-6 [M]   COURSE INTRODUCTION and Death of a Salesman (Film)

7-7[Tu]   In Death of a Salesman:  Text and Criticism:
                "A Salesman is Everybody" by A. Howard Fuller [240-243]
                "Tragedy and the Common Man" & "The Salesman Has a Birthday" by Miller [143-150]
                "Morality and Modern Drama," a Philip Gelb interview with Miller [172-186]
                "Death of a Traveling Salesman" by Eudora Welty [371-385]Sample Quiz
                "The Last of the Solid Gold Watches" by Tennessee Williams [386-398]     

7-8 [W]   Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller; The Arthur Miller Society
                "The Realism of Arthur Miller" by Raymond Williams [313-325]

7-9 [Th]  Cynthia Ozick Introduction to Seize the Day [ix-xxiii]
                 Saul Bellow Nobel Prize Lecture
                 Chapters I-III of Seize the Day by Saul Bellow [1-51] SQ

7-10 [F]   Chapters IV-VII of Seize the Day by Saul Bellow [52-114] Daily Writing for Seize the Day
                  "Beyond Science and Superman: Bellow and Mind at Mid-Century": Robert Chodat [PDF]


7-13 [M]  "Everything That Rises Must Converge" by Flannery O'Connor [PP: 3-23]; O'Connor Reading Her Own Work
                 "Good Country People" by O'Connor [PP: 2568-2583]
                  In The Little Disturbances of Man by Grace Paley: "Goodbye and Good Luck" [PP: 9-22] & "A Woman Young and Old" [PP: 25-40]
                 "A Perfect Marginality: Public and Private Telling in the Stories of Grace Paley" [PDF] Paley Obituary

7-14 [Tu]  The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams; Introduction to The Beat Generation
                 Poems by Gary Snyder and Lawrence Ferlinghetti [PP: 211-213 & 8 Ferlinghetti poems]Snyder Reading "Riprap"
                 In Howl and Other Poems by Allen Ginsberg: "A Supermarket in California" [29-30], "Sunflower Sutra" [34-38], & "America" [39-43]

7-15 [W]  In Howl and Other Poems "Howl" [7-26], and "Footnote to Howl" [27-28]
                 Ann Charters' Introduction to On the Road: vii-xxix Characters in On the Road.
                 On the Road by Jack Kerouac [Part I: 1-50] Scoring Charts: 30 Pts.; 7 pts.; 5 pts. 3 pts.

7-16 [Th]   On the Road by Jack Kerouac [Part I: 51-150] Kerouac on Steve Allen

7-17 [F]      Finish On the Road by Jack Kerouac [151-307]


7-20 [M]   "Mapping Women of the Beat Generation" by Ronna C. Johnson [3-41]
                   "Places to Go" by Joanne Kyger [133-153]
                   "Pieces of a Song" by Diane di Prima [83-106]
                    from Memoirs of a Beatnik by Diane di Prima [51-59]
                    Poems by Lenore Kandel [100-107]; di Prima [46-50]; Kyger [140-146]
                    All of the above are in the Prof Pack. SQ Beat Women

7-21 [Tu]   The American Dream [PP: 53-127] and Zoo Story [PP: 15-40] by Edward Albee. Dutchman Film.
                    Dutchman by Amiri Baraka [PP: 76-99] SQ

7-22 [W]    The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon [Chapters 1-3: 9-80]

7-23 [Th]   Finish The Crying of Lot 49 [Chapters 4-6: 81-183]

7-24 [F]      Falling Man by Don DeLillo [Part I: 3-83]
        "In the Ruins of the Future" by DeLillo [PDF] SHORT PAPER DUE


7-27 [M]    Finish Falling Man by Don DeLillo [Parts II & III: 87-246]

7-28 [Tu]   “Autobiography” [35-39], “Two Meditations” [104-113], “Ambrose His Mark” [14-34],
& “Lost in the Funhouse” [72-97] by John Barth. All in Professor’s Pack.

7-29 [W].    “The Babysitter” by Robert Coover [PP: 324-345]
“Margins” [9-13], “A Shower of Gold” [14-23], & “The Balloon”  [53-58] by Donald
Barthelme. All in Professor’s Pack.
 “The God of Dark Laughter” by Michael Chabon         

7-30 [Th]      “Little Expressionless Animals” & “My Appearance” by David Foster Wallace
[PP: 3-37 & 175-201]