American postmodernism and popular culture

Course title: American Postmodernism and Popular Culture
Instructor: Asst. Prof. Sven Cvek, Hrvoje Tutek
ECTS credits: 6
Status: elective
Semester: 2nd or 3rd year of undergraduate studies
Enrollment requirements: student must be registered in the 3rd semester
Course description: This course centers on some crucial aspects of US postmodernism, such as a transforming relationship between “popular” and “high” culture, inquiries into the exchanges between historiography and fiction, and questions of availability of critical positions in the “late-capitalist” society. The course will focus on selected US postmodern novels, their interpretations, and their interactions with various forms of popular culture (textual, visual, musical), commonly understood either as sites of authentic expression of “the people,” or as fundamentally inauthentic products of an alienating culture industry. The discussion will include issues of: the distinction between mass and popular culture, consumerism, culture industry and cultural amnesia, simulacra, culture as a question of identity, globalization and Americanization, utopia.
Objectives: students will learn about the important cultural, social and political aspects of American postmodernism and their relation to the literary production of the period. The course also aims at preparing the students for a critical, contextually and theoretically informed reading of the novels, with a special emphasis on approaches informed by cultural studies.
Course requirements: regular attendance, written test, essay paper.

Week by week schedule: TBA

Reading: four or five of the following titles:
Ishmael Reed, Mumbo Jumbo
Willam Gibson, Neuromancer
Don DeLillo, White Noise
Art Spiegelman, Maus
Douglas Coupland, Generation X
Sherman Alexie, Reservation Blues
Octavia Butler, Parable of the Sower
Colson Whitehead, Zone One
Thomas Pynchon, Vineland
Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Ursula LeGuin, The Dispossessed
George Saunders, In Persuasion Nation

Students will also be required to read the course reader (about 200 pages) that provides the historical context and theoretical background for the course.