Course title: History and Memory in Contemporary American Novel
Instructor: Assoc. Prof. Jelena Šesnić
ECTS credits: 6
Semester: 7th and 9th semester
Enrollment requirements: enrollment in the 7th or 9th semester
Dr Jelena Šesnić
Literary Seminar (MA): History and Memory in Contemporary American Novel
Mon, 11-12:30 (A-123)
Wed, 13:15-14 (A-105)
Office hours: Mon, 12:30-13:30; Thur 11-12
Course description: The twentieth century has often been seen as a period overdetermined by memory, but also described as the traumatic century. Contemporary American novel (the late 20th and early 21st c.) responds to both these designations in specific ways, primarily by going back to overwhelming episodes or themes from national and global history. The novels considered in the seminar vary from the so-called postmodern historical novels («historiographic metafictions») to the political and graphic novels, while they take up, in turn, slavery, suppressed minority or ethnic histories, major political events (presidential assassinations, anarchism and the leftist agitation, minority struggles, terrorism) and the americanization/globalization of the Holocaust.
We shall consider the ways the novels enact viable models of individual and collective memory, especially in view of the contributions by sociological theories of memory (Halbwachs, Nora, Eyerman); political sciences (Anderson, Connerton); psychoanalytic/pychological notions of memory and trauma (Freud, van der Kolk); and their applications in critical theory and American studies (Assmann, Caruth, LaCapra, Hirsch).
1. Toni Morrison: Beloved (1987)
2. Art Spiegelman: Maus I & II (1986, 1991)
3. Cynthia Ozick: The Shawl (1990)
4. E L Doctorow: Ragtime (1975)
5. Don DeLillo: Libra (1988)
6. Jonathan Safran Foer: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2005)
7. Sherman Alexie: Flight (2007)
Requirements: regular attendance; participation in class discussions; in-class and home assignments; seminar paper (min. 10 double-spaced pages); mid-term + final test (continuous assessment, mandatory)
Readings (subject to change)
Week 1: Introduction: lit-hist. contexts; types and mechanics of memory; memory and history; why memory (studies)?; trauma studies and memory (Freud, Moses…)
Week 2: Morrison: Beloved (the neo-slave novel, national memory, cultural trauma)
Week 3: Morrison: cont.
Week 4: Spiegelman: Maus I, II (post-memory; the graphic novel and the Holocaust; americanization of the Holocaust)
Week 1: Spiegelman: cont.
Week 2: Ozick: The Shawl (americanization of the Holocaust; testimonial literature)
Week 3: Doctorow: Ragtime (popular/celebrity culture and culture industry; collective memory; organic and modern types of memory)
Week 4: Doctorow: cont. *Mid-term.*
Week 1: Don DeLillo: Libra (politics, trauma and national memory; historiography and metafiction)
Week 2: DeLillo: Libra
Week 3: Foer: Extremely Loud (9/11, trauma and memory; multidirectional, global memory; mediation and memory)
Week 4: Foer: Extremely Loud (cont.)
Week 1: Alexie: Flight. (ethnic memory and national history; Nora’s theory of memory)
Week 2: Alexie: cont. *Seminar paper submission.*
Week 3: *Evaluation. Final test.*
– Additional reading material will be provided in digital form on Omega.
Assmann, Aleida. «History, Memory, and the Genre of Testimony». Poetics Today 27.2
(Summer 2006): 261-274.
Caruth, Cathy, ed. Trauma: Explorations in Memory. Baltimore, London: The Johns
Hopkins UP, 1995. (selection)
Erll, Astrid, and Ansgar Nünning, eds. Media and Cultural Memory. Berlin, New York:
Walter de Gruyter, 2008. (selection)
Freud, Sigmund. Moses and Monotheism. Trans. Katherine Jones. New York: Vintage,
1939. 72-130. (Part Three, Section One)
Halbwachs, Maurice. On Collective Memory. Ed., transl., and with an Introduction by
Lewis S. Coser. Chicago, London: The U of Chicago P, 1992. (selection)
Hirsch, Marianne. «Past Lives: Postmemories in Exile». Poetics Today 4 (1996): 659-686.
Nora, Pierre. «Between Memory and History: Les Lieux de Mémoire». Representations
26 (Spring 1989): 7-12.
Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of
Nationalism. Rev. ed. London, New York: Verso, 1991. (izbor)
Assmann, Aleida. Cultural Memory and Western Civilization: Functions, Media, Archives.
Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2011.
Assmann, Aleida, and Sebastian Conrad, eds. Memory in a Global Age: Discourses,
Practices, and Trajectories. Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.
Connerton, Paul. Kako se društva sjećaju. Prev. Zdravko Židovec. Zagreb: Antibarbarus,
LaCapra, Dominick. History and Memory after Auschwitz. Ithaca, London: Cornell UP,
van der Kolk, Bessel. Psychological Trauma. Washington: American Psychiatric P, 1987.