Experimental form, a breakdown between high and low culture, and hyperbolic self-referentiality are just a few of the hallmarks of postmodernism, a notoriously slippery concept that is the focus of this Honors Seminar. But what else is postmodernism? Is it a literary movement? A moment in history? An economic condition? A state of mind? We may not arrive at a definitive answer to these questions, but the novels and theoretical texts we will encounter in this seminar suggest that postmodernism is marked by a fundamental shift in our relationship to technology, mass media, and pop culture. We will closely study novels, graphic novels, and films that revel in, critique, or even resist these elements of postmodernism.
- Danielewski, Mark Z. House of Leaves. New York: Pantheon Books, 2000.
- DeLillo, Don. White Noise: Text and Criticism. Ed. Mark Osteen. New York: Penguin-Viking, 1998.
- Hagedorn, Jessica. Dream Jungle. New York: Viking, 2003.
- Lappé, Anthony, and Dan Goldman. Shooting War. New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2007.
- Nicol, Bran. Postmodernism and the Contemporary Novel: A Reader. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2002.
- Plascencia, Salvador. The People of Paper. Orlando: Harvest Books, 2005.
- Russ, Joanna. The Female Man. Boston: Beacon Press, 2000.
- Participation in the day’s discussion is essential. And of course, to get the most out of the discussion, you must have read and thought about the day’s reading, thoroughly and critically.
- Every student will contribute to the course blog at least once a week. Posts should run about 300 words and should strive to be thoughtful and nuanced, offering questions and insights rather than descriptions or summaries. You have between Sunday through Saturday to post for the week. Late posts cannot be made up; if you miss a week, then you receive no credit for that week’s blog. Occasionally I will provide questions for you to respond to, but most times the posts will be more open-ended. You might begin with an aspect of the reading that you don’t quite understand, and work out a tentative answer in your post. Or you might relate some of the theoretical work to the fiction we are reading. You may also respond to another student’s post by building upon it, disagreeing with it, or re-thinking it.
- There will be four inquiry papers this semester, each around 3-4 pages in length. These are not full-blown essays so much as they are structured engagements with very particular aspects of a text.
- The final project for the class will be an 8-10 page analytical paper, which offers a critical reckoning of some of the larger issues relating to postmodernism as a style or thematic mode, and locating these issues within one or two of the novels we have encountered, or possibly outside texts. A research proposal will be due several weeks before the end of the term. The paper will require outside research, using sources from established academic journals or academic press books.
The final grade will be weighted and calculated in the following manner:
- Course Blog: 20%
- Inquiry Papers (15% each): 60%
- Final Project: 20%
I evaluate the blog entries on a scale of 0-4, while I give every other assignment a letter grade. In order to calculate your final grade, I convert the letter grades into a percentage. I weight the grades, and then convert the average back into a letter grade. I use the following standard grading scale:
A+ = 100% / A = 95% / A- = 92%
B+ = 89% / B = 85% / B- = 82%
C+ = 79% / C = 75% / C- = 72%
D = 65% / F = below 60%
Attendance is mandatory (excepting medical emergencies or observation of religious holidays). From the 2007-2008 University Catalog:
Students are expected to attend the class periods of the courses for which they register. In-class participation is important not only to the individual student, but to the class as a whole. Because class participation may be a factor in grading, instructors may use absence, tardiness, or early departure as de facto evidence of nonparticipation.
Late assignments will be lowered one letter grade for every weekday they are overdue, unless prior arrangements are made. Even if you are not in class the day an assignment is due, it is still due for you that day. Assignments more than a week late for any reason will simply not be accepted. Therefore, failure to hand in every assignment on time will make it extremely difficult to pass the course.
Students of George Mason University pledge not to cheat, plagiarize, steal, or lie in matters related to academic work. The English Department has issued a statement further clarifying what is meant by “plagiarize”:
Plagiarism means using the exact words, opinions, or factual information from another person without giving that person credit. Writers give credit through accepted documentation styles, such as parenthetical citation, footnotes, or endnotes; a simple listing of books and articles is not sufficient. Plagiarism is the equivalent of intellectual robbery and cannot be tolerated in an academic setting.
Remember, it is perfectly acceptable to refer to and build upon others’ ideas, but you must always identify the source, even when paraphrasing. The university uses turnitin.com to detect plagiarized papers, and I may occasionally require students to submit their written work to turnitin.com’s database. If I suspect plagiarism or any other violation of the Honor Code, I will report the offender to the university Honor Committee, whose penalties range from an F for the course to expulsion from the university.
If you are a student with a disability and you need academic accommodations, please see me and contact the Disability Resource Center (DRC) at 993-2474. All academic accommodations must be arranged through the DRC.