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Course Details 
Host Campus: UT Arlington
Course Program: Finish@UT
Course Code: ENGL 4387
Course Title: Contemporary Literature: Canon Formation in Contemporary American Fiction (Finish@UT)
Course Full Description: When you buy the anthology for a survey course in American literature, you find a finite number of texts inside, texts whose inclusion signals their “canonicity”—their status as part of a representative corpus of the best American literature. That particular combination of texts is not self-­-evident, natural, or agreed upon by all readers and scholars. To the contrary, the texts assembled in anthologies and taught in college classes owe their selection to vigorous, decades-­-long debates over what belongs in the canon. These debates have had the overall effect of making the canon much more diverse, from the gender and race of the authors to the genre of the texts. But the debates aren’t over. Writers keep writing, readers keep reading, and the model of teaching national literary traditions keeps demanding that decisions be made about who’s in and who’s out. What contemporary works of American literature will readers continue to study, wrestle with, and debate, and what works will fade away? The answer to this question involves much more than simply allowing for the passage of time. In this course, we are not so much interested in the answer to that question as we are in the mechanics of how such an answer gets formulated. Our task will be to conduct a critical investigation into the process of canon formation going on at this very moment in the United States. We will begin with a group of readings that do three things: 1) introduce the idea of canonicity, 2) contest the content of the canon, and 3) challenge not just the content of the canon but the very idea of canonicity. We will then listen in on conversations about literary merit taking place in periodicals such as The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, and Harper’s, as well as in newspapers and online magazines. This conversation will touch on issues like the politics of literary prizes and race-­- and gender-­-representation in book reviews. Venturing beyond highbrow taste making, we will explore the phenomenon emblematized by Oprah’s book club, while sites like Goodreads and Amazon’s “best of” lists will offer more popular voices. In addition to reading about literature, we’ll read literature, too, focusing on work by some of the major contemporary contenders for canonicity while also getting a sense of what most Americans are actually reading. At the end of the course, students will be able to weigh in knowledgably on the question of canonicity, and, I hope, will never take the contents of an anthology for granted again.
Prerequisites: Six hours sophomore literature or three hours sophomore literature with a grade of A. This course is reserved for students enrolled in the Finish@UT program. Must have completed 60 credits and the General Education Core requirements.
Course Status: Canceled
Course Level: Undergraduate (Upper-Division)
Credits: 3


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Course Sections
Campus SemesterSectionStatusView
Fall I 2017 (8 wk)85799ActiveReg Closed
Fall I 2016 (8 wk)86303CanceledReg Closed
Fall I 2015 (8 wk)87124CanceledReg Closed
Fall I 2014 (8 wk)88778ActiveReg Closed