ENGL S-237. Myth and Mystery in Post-World War II US Short Fiction

Instructor: Patrick Whitmarsh, PhD
Lecturer on History and Literature
Day & Time: Tuesdays & Thursdays 3:15–6:15pm (EDT)
Location: Science Center 110
Summer 7-week session | CRN 35390
Open Enrollment

This course surveys a host of short prose fiction published in the United States after 1945. Ranging from canonical works by Thomas Pynchon and Philip Roth to lesser-known works, including several by women and writers of color, this course explores the various ways that authors grapple with political uncertainty, social instability, and cultural identity following the end of World War II. Students examine different strategies of genre and style and ask how postwar writers both participate in and challenge the American mythos: the nation's self-constructed history of exceptionalism and progress. Some central questions this course asks are: what does it mean to think of America (or the United States) as a myth? How does mythic imagery inform national identity? How do different literary genres (science fiction, spy fiction, and gothic fiction) offer unique expressions of the ambiguities that reside in American history and culture? We rely heavily on in-class activities and discussion, complemented occasionally by mini-lectures to expand on historical context and background.