Contemporary American Fiction

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1.  Response to Museum of Jurassic Technology or Cut-Up

Option 1 (the easy way out): write a 2-3 page response to the museum focusing either on a single display/exhibit, or the overall practice.  How does the museum make knowledge? or comment on the knowledge-making process?

Option 2 – Exhibit (speculative fun): create an exhibit inspired by the Museum.  The exhibit should have an explanation that accompanies it (think about the placards that accompany the items in the Museum). Write a 1-2 page paper explaining the relationship between your exhibit and the exhibits at the Museum.  What about the Museum inspired you to create your exhibit?

Option 3 – Cut-Up (creative fun): Create a cut-up based on William S. Burroughs’ method but using contemporary media from your own life.  This could include digital media, film, video, photographs, or more traditional forms like newspapers and magazines.  The final form of the project could be a collage, film, flash, PowerPoint, photo slideshow – the only limits are technical.  Write a 1-2 page paper describing what your cut-up does.  Is it scrambling a code like Burroughs?  If so, what code?  Why scramble it?

2.  Research project

Choose at least one text we have read/will read in class this semester and write a 8-10 page critical paper based on LIBRARY research about the author/work/historical context.  You can choose whichever author/text you find the most interesting, or you can focus on a theme such as war, identity, gender, race, class, computers/technology.  Consider the questions we have asked of many of these texts: What is the author trying to describe/communicate?  How is he/she doing so?  Why?  More simply, what is the relationship between form and content?  If you are having trouble choosing a topic, please schedule a time to talk with me outside of class, so that we can brainstorm.  Though the final product will be a paper, this is a research project that will include a presentation on your research.  The paper will be due in several steps:

a. 1-paragraph topic proposal.  This should be a rough explanation of the direction of your inquiry.  You won’t know exactly what your paper will be about.  This is just a preliminary statement of interest, and a thesis, which will probably be revised over the course of your research.  Though it’s rough, it should still be grammatically correct, etc.  Due Thursday, July 15th.

b. a 1-page outline.  This should be a more developed version of your proposal, with a clearer sense of your argument and the steps you will take to prove it. Due Tuesday, July 20th.

c. First draft for peer review.  This should be a relatively developed draft.  The more you have, the more commentary you can receive from your fellow students. Due Monday, July 26th.

d. Final draft.  Obviously.


1.  Reading presentations:  There will be one reading presentation on the recommended reading.

You will sign up on the first day of class.  You should sign up in pairs/groups.  1 person/group presents the material: what you think we need to know.  The other comes up with at least two questions that you think the audience will ask, or need to have answered.  Be prepared with more in case the presenter answers those questions first.  Be creative.  They don’t have to be Jeopardy-like questions, i.e., what year was so and so born in?  They should be speculative, for example: How do you think Burroughs was affected by World War II?  Why do you think that Audre Lorde chose to write a “Biomythography”?  The two presenters are trying to create a dialogue with and around the texts.  The first presenter does not need to “know” the answers, but he/she needs to make a good faith effort to answer it, or respond.  It is okay to guess or imagine, or to turn the question back on the questioner.  This is a class on contemporary fiction, which frequently explores the interplay between imagination and fact, the possibilities of multiple truths or readings, the role of the reader as “scriptor,” or co-author, and the importance of play.  Think of yourselves as co-creating or performing a reading experience that considers both the historical context of the writing and our reading.

2. Research presentation:  You will be asked to present on one piece of research that you uncover in the preparation for your research paper.  The piece of research will be something that you found on one of the library databases – preferably JSTOR.  Your presentation should include a summary of the article as well as your comments about it, and a sense of how it relates to your project.


There will be at least two in-class quizzes on the assigned reading, and possibly more pop quizzes.


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