Instructor: Schiff
Thurs HYBRID 3:30 PM –  4:50 PM

Recent events — the George Floyd killing, social and racial justice protests, Black Lives Matter and the #Me Too Movement, Covid-19 pandemic, rise of white supremacy, the Trump Presidency, QAnon and the proliferation of conspiracy theories — have made us more aware of just how puzzling and unsettling the world can be. These events have also revealed how little we know about our history and myths (our national DNA), and how adept we can be at ignoring or repressing human behavior we would rather not confront. As a response, at least in part, to contemporary events, we will read novels and essays that investigate American culture and its many myths: from reinvention and exceptionalism to exploitation and nationalism. Throughout, we will seek to understand how these ideas continue to resonate and evolve in contemporary American culture and its fiction. Early class readings, by Jill Lepore, Ta-Nahesi Coates, James Baldwin, and others will establish and familiarize us with cultural and historical thought. Fictions writers will likely include: Marilynne Robinson, Toni Morrison, Cormac McCarthy, John Updike, Philip Roth, Jane Smiley, George Saunders, Colson Whitehead, Don DeLillo, A. M. Homes, and others.