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Course Description

The course description for E238: Twentieth-Century Fiction appears below. It outlines various pedagogical goals for E238, and is an important document to keep in mind when working to meet student and departmental expectations for the class.

E238 Twentieth-Century Fiction

This course explores a variety of generic conventions and ideological concerns in the twentieth-century fiction, emphasizing the late-century post-colonialist and post-modernist writers. At stake for all of these writers are issues of subjectivity and agency, differing definitions of desire and memory, and position of the individual in relation to a larger, and often politically oppressive, society.

E238 is an approved course in the III-E Global and Cultural Awareness category of the All University Core Curriculum.

  1. The course provides foundational knowledge in one of the main types of literature – fiction, including both novel and short story. It introduces the basic formal elements of fiction (plot, characterization, point of view, narrative structure, setting, description, dialogue, conflict, symbolism, etc.) as well as the basic interpretive skills needed to make sense of these formal elements.
  2. The works of fiction treated in the course come from a wide variety of differing cultural contexts – and as such allow the students to understand both fundamental human similarities that are shared by differing peoples in the 20th century, but also to grasp differences in attitudes, issues, and concerns between peoples of widely varying cultures.
  3. Students will engage in frequent writing assignments, both formal and informal, and in class discussion and more formal oral presentations, thus honing their own language skills.
  4. The very nature of the course's materials will lead the students to a better, more emphatic, understanding of people superficially or fundamentally different from themselves.
  5. The core competencies of reading, writing, speaking, and critical thinking are all enhanced by both the course's subject matter and its pedagogical procedures.

As an approved course in the III-E Global and Cultural Awareness category of the All University Core Curriculum, E 238 exposes the student to a wide ethnic, cultural, and global diversity of the writers and perspectives in the novels and short story collections assigned. Depending on the instructor's choice, the course includes writers from Mexico, Dominican Republic, Antigua, Colombia, England, Ireland, France, Czechoslovakia, Russian, Zimbabwe, South Africa, India, Japan, and New Zealand. Also included may be U.S. writers out of the mainstream: Afro-American, Native American, Asian American, Chicano(a). More specifically, the works cover a variety of political ideologies, tribal myths, the effects of colonial and post-colonial values, violent national and international conflicts, and other cultural problematics.

A number of works (for example, Kundera's novels) show in great detail the ways in which people's public and private lives are profoundly affected by various political ideologies. Novel such as Silko's Ceremony explore the confusion of values experienced by people of minority cultures in trying to reconcile or accommodate their native culture with that of the white majority. Other novels (for example from contemporary Africa) treat the effects of colonial and indigenous tribal values on a young person's coming of age. A book such as Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude explores the complex and ultimately violent international relationships between US owned companies and Latin America in general. Several works invite students to debate these issues in light of their own assumptions and perspectives. Finally the course demands that students make use of the core competencies in articulating both orally and in writing their ideas and feelings.