21st Century American Fiction

English 576.70, Sp 2011          Tuesday 6- 8:50 pm

Dr. Susan Swartwout, GB 318-O, 651-2641



Required books

Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Pattern Recognition by William Gibson

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Diary by Chuck Palahniuk

The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier

The Help by Kathryn Stockett



 How to pass this class:

   Turn in each completed assignment typed and on time: Late work does not receive credit, but it is accepted if you desire feedback from the professor on the specific assignment. If you need an extension on an assignment or paper due to illness or a necessary absence, you must ask for the extension before the class period in which it is due.

   Be (well) prepared to deliver your presentation on its assigned date. Your presentations bring essential information to the class. Be thorough and creative! Do your research and bring props.

   Attend class and be in class on time: Your attendance reflects directly upon your participation and on-time assignments. Furthermore, when you are absent, you detract from your fellow students’ college experience by missing discussions and from your own grade by missing exams or quizzes.  There will be no so-called “make-up” quizzes. Exams can be made up if you have an extension in advance.

   Do all the reading: The discussions, exams, and quizzes are all based on the readings and class discussion.  The papers reflect what you have learned from the readings. Since the reading is significant, don’t attempt to wait until the last minute to catch up on several reading assignments. Reading quizzes may be given.

 How your grade will be assessed:

·         daily assignments, quizzes, and participation - 10% each

·         midterm exam - 20%

·         1 critical paper - 20%

·         presentation - 10%

·         final exam - 20%

 Graduate students are expected to produce superior results on all of the above, based upon their higher level of education.

 Critical Paper: The critical paper should be typed in a professional-looking font (i.e. no unusual-sized nor decorative fonts) with 1” margins all around, and double-spaced. The paper will be 6 - 10 pages in length, present an argumentative issue about its topic, and will cite and document information from at least three secondary sources. The final draft will include the paper and an MLA-format bibliography.

 Presentation: The presentation consists of information on the topic assigned and will be assigned for presenting on different days (see sign-up sheet). I encourage multimedia presentations and creativity, keeping in mind the main concerns which are 1) premeditated consideration of the topic and its issues that relate to the course and 2) a well-organized delivery.  Prepare an informal, typed sheet of notes, information, critical sources, etc. to hand in after your presentation.

Syllabus: Have assignments done on the day in which they are listed. I expect the books to be read in their entirety by their first discussion day. Plan ahead as needed.

 Week 1 (01/18)

Intro to the course. (Read  Motherless Brooklyn for Week  2.)

Notes on The Self and the Human Condition


Discussion questions for Motherless Brooklyn


Week 2  (01/25)

 Motherless Brooklyn     

Week 3  (02/01)        

Motherless Brooklyn

Week 4  (02/08)

Water for Elephants

Week 5  (02/15)

Water for Elephants

Week 6  (02/22)


Week 7  (03/01)


Week 8  (03/08)

            Midterm exam

Pattern Recognition   

Week 9 


Week 10  (03/22)

             Critical paper is due.

Pattern Recognition

Week 11  (03/29)

 The Road

Week 12  (04/05)

The Road

Week 13  (04/12)

A Brief History of the Dead

Week 14  (04/19)

A Brief History of the Dead

Week 15  (04/26)

The Help

Week 16  (05/03)

The Help

Final exam on Tuesday May 10 at 6 pm.