Course Description

This course examines a selection of contemporary American fiction in historic, aesthetic, and social contexts. In other words, we will explore the relationship between contemporary American literature and the world we live in. We’ll discuss topics such as post-war alienation, literary and cultural postmodernism, metafiction, formal experimentation, and the use of myth, folklore, and history in the novels we read.  We will explore as well how contemporary literature is shaped by identity issues including race, gender, class, and sexuality. While the range of contemporary American fiction is extremely broad and varied, and impossible to cover in one semester, students will become acquainted with significant and influential American novels from each decade beginning in 1950.


  • J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye (1951)
  • Shirley Jackson, We Have Always Lived in the Castle (1962)
  • Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five (1969)
  • Don DeLillo, White Noise (1985)
  • Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried (1990)
  • Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon (1977)
  • Louise Erdrich, Tracks (1988)
  • Jane Smiley, A Thousand Acres (1991)
  • Alison Bechdel, Fun Home (2006)
  • Jesmyn Ward, Sing, Unburied, Sing (2017)
  • Charles Yu, Interior Chinatown (2020)