Syllabus Update: A Little More Science Fiction, a Lot More Cohesion


Some of you might recall that I am hard at work on a syllabus for a survey in American literature for the summer.  I expressed some concern over the lack of women in my selections and a number of you made suggestions, which I have taken to heart.  I haven’t included all of your suggestions for what I hope are obvious reasons, but a few have appeared in my working list.  Here’s the list as it currently stands:

WWI and Aftermath
“Sestina: Altaforte” by Ezra Pound (1909)
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway (1926)
War Brides by Marion Craig Wentworth (1915)
“Gerontion” by T. S. Eliot (1920)
“The End of the World” by Archibald Macleish (1926)

WWII and Aftermath
“In Distrust of Merits” by Marianne Moore (1944)
Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut (1969)
“The Grave” by Katherine Anne Porter (1944)
“The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson (1948)
“Lost in the Funhouse” by John Barth (1967)
“The German Refugee” by Bernard Malamud (1964)

Vietnam and Civil Rights
The Forever War by Joe Haldeman (1974)
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick (1968)
“The Lions Are Asleep This Night” by Howard Waldrop (1986)

Under Consideration or Unplaced Works
“The Displaced Person” by Flannery O’Connor (1955)
“Everything That Rises Must Converge” by Flannery O’Connor (1965)
“The Artificial Nigger” by Flannery O’Connor (1955) (I’m using at least one of these)

Dropped or Replaced Works
“Bluegill” by Jayne Anne Phillips (1979)
“A Way You’ll Never Be” by Ernest Hemingway (1933)
“In Another Country” by Ernest Hemingway (1927)
The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon (1966)
Urinetown (text) by Mark Hollmann and Greg Kotis (2001)
“They’re Made of Meat” by Terry Bisson (1991)
Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein (1959)
“I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream” by Harlan Ellison (1967)
A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway (1929)
The Sunset Limited by Cormac McCarthy (2006)

One thing I’ve decided to do is skip contemporary literature.  I wouldn’t do so if this were a standard semester, but because I’m working with a 6-week summer time limit, I have decided it would be best to examine the pinnacle of modernism and the dawn of postmodernism by focusing on works centered in three significant moments in U.S. history (WWI, WWII, and the Civil Rights and Vietnam era).  I hope the themes make sense and that I can clearly show the development of American literature through authorial engagement with these events.

Any thoughts, suggestions for changes, etc.?  Let me know in the comments.

(Note:  the sections I’ve created above are not exact.  They bleed into one another, as all historical periods in the 20th century do.  I don’t envision them as wholly separate entities in terms of the themes being discussed in the works I’ve selected.)

About the Author:

Shaun Duke is an aspiring writer, a reviewer, and an academic. He is currently a graduate student at the University of Florida studying science fiction, postcolonialism, posthumanism, and fantasy.

5 thoughts on “Syllabus Update: A Little More Science Fiction, a Lot More Cohesion

  1. you and I already talked about Ballard, so I won't say anything about that.

    Harlan Ellison, I presume? Which Ellison would you recommend that fits the themes I'm working with? There's a lot of stuff about race and civil rights, and then specific criticisms or discussions of war…

  2. "Pale Horse, Pale Rider" by Porter add as WWI (the short novel, not the grouping of novels). Fo' srsly. It will spur an interesting debate about patriarchy, gender roles, and patriotism during WWI. Less than 50 pages.


  3. I'll check out "Pale Horse" anyway. It might be a more appropriate text than "The Grave." My syllabus is remarkably genre-fic heavy, I've realized. But so what?

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