Topic: Train Reading: Short Fiction Since 1945
Instructor: Kathy Knapp
Prerequisite: ENGL 1010, 1011, or 2011
This course will examine short fiction that originally appeared in The New Yorker and its role in reflecting, shaping, and educating the burgeoning middle class of the postwar years and resituating them in the contemporary era. By reading the stories of John Cheever, John Updike, Philip Roth, and J.D. Salinger among others, as well as that of contemporary writers such as Jhumpa Lahiri, Sherman Alexi, George Saunders, and Junot Diaz among others alongside cultural, historical, and literary criticism and essays, we will see how this fiction has helped readers of the Professional Managerial Class (PMC) form their identity as they came to “arrive” in the suburbs or transform the city by way of gentrification. Indeed, many of these stories wrestle with the ephemeral anxieties peculiar to their readers’ station in life: numbing conformity, debilitated manhood, marital woes, and perceived professional slights. Still others challenge readers to imaginatively engage in a rapidly changing and increasingly globalized world in ways both productive and problematic. These stories have alternately offered the middle class a glamorized version of themselves, exposed their weaknesses, preyed upon their fears, and both challenged and confirmed their assumptions concerning race, gender, class, and privilege. We will supplement our reading by sampling and discussing representations of the PMC in films, television, and advertising. This course should fulfill the objectives of a General Education course and an Honors course, which is to say it is designed to help you write and think more critically and deeply about the way that fiction interacts with our perceptions of ourselves and the larger world.