Department of English, University of Texas at Austin, 2016

This seminar works on the question: “What is (or was) postmodernism?”  From Jean – Françis Lyotard’s rallying cry to “wage a war on totality” to the virtual realities of cyberpunk, the literature of postmodernity testifies to a cultural moment that contested notions of the real, of narrative and signification itself. We will discuss how the posthuman in Bladerunner relates to Toni Morrison’s traumatic histories, and which interests authors such as Kurt Vonnegut or Thomas Pynchon share with the MAD comix artists.

We explore some of the key theorists of postmodernity, and debate the ways in which dominant ideologies are represented and contested. This movement has often been associated with white male writers, but this seminar reflects postmodernism’s true diversity, and our readings will reflect this. The syllabus is divided into five sections, each of which describes a significant cultural arena explored by writers and artists: experiments with metafiction and narrative temporality; African American postmodernism; the postmodernism of multimodal art forms, such as interdisciplinary poetry performances and graphic narratives; feminism and postmodernism; and cyberpunk and the posthuman.

At the end of the course, we briefly reflect on the status of postmodernism today.  Has it already ended or is it ongoing?  To what extent does it influence cultural production today?


Brief excerpts from theoretical works (might include Jorge Luis Borges, Jean-François Lyotard, Ihab Hassan, Fredric Jameson, Jean Baudrillard, Lina Hutcheon, Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, and Donna Haraway)

Toni Morrison, Beloved (1987)

H. Pritchard, selected poems from The Matrix (1960-70)

Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children’s Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death (1969)

Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49 (1966)

Jorge Luis Borges, The Library of Babel (1941)

John Cage, selected poems and collaborations

Art Spiegelman, selected comics

Margaret Atwood, The Edible Woman (1969)

Angela Carter, selected stories from The Bloody Chamber (1979)

William Gibson, Neuromancer (1984)

Other:  Blade Runner (1982, Ridley Scott)