COMP 231 Fall 2012 Postmodernism (D) (W)

Cross Listed as ENGL266
In one definition, postmodernism in art and literature is what you get when you combine modernism's radical experimentation with pop culture's easy appeal. This term has been used to describe works from Andy Warhol's paintings of Campbell's soup cans and Jean Baudrillard's critical essays on Disneyland to Thomas Pynchon's paranoid novel about postal conspiracy, The Crying of Lot 49. Theorists of the postmodern have argued that it represents not only a radical change in aesthetic sensibilities, but a fundamentally new relationship between art, language, and society. In this tutorial, we will read some of the most important theoretical essays defining the postmodern (essays which themselves often embrace this playful and sometimes ironic style), and we will pair them with artistic texts that are said to illustrate the features of postmodernism. The latter will be mainly novels and short stories from various countries, but one feature of this theory is a flattening of the distinction between high and low culture as well as between the written and the visual, so we will also examine examples from architecture, visual art, and/or broader pop culture. Along the way will ask whether global theoretical paradigms like postmodernism can help us understand other cultures better (by locating them within a single universal system), or whether this approach conceals important cultural differences. Texts will include essays by Jean Baudrillard, Fredric Jameson, Jean-Francois Lyotard, and others; novels and short stories by writers like Don DeLillo, Jorge Luis Borges, Italo Calvino, and Murakami Haruki; painting and sculpture associated with Pop Art and Superflat; the architecture of Williamstown area museums; etc. Writing assignments will focus on reading the theoretical texts critically and applying their ideas to the artistic texts in creative and interesting ways. Open to sophomores as well as advanced students. Emphasis will be on understanding and engaging the criticism that we read, and comparing the critical and fictional texts creatively in a way that sheds light on both.
Class Format: tutorial; after an introductory lecture meeting, students will meet with the instructor in pairs for approximately an hour each week
Requirements/Evaluation: a 5-page paper every other week (five in all); responses to their partners' papers in alternate weeks
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Additional Info2:
Prerequisites: a 100-level literature course (Comparative Literature, English, etc.) and sophomore standing or higher, or permission of the instructor
Enrollment Preference: students majoring in a discipline related to critical theory (or considering such a major) and those with a demonstrated interest in the material
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Divisional Attributes: Division I,Exploring Diversity, Writing Intensive
Other Attributes: ENGL Criticism Courses
Enrollment Limit: 10
Expected Enrollment: 10
Class Number: 1365
COMP231-T1(F) TUT Postmodernism (D) (W) Division 1: Languages and the ArtsExploring Diversity InitiativeWriting Intensive Christopher A. Bolton
TBA 1365
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