ENGL 336
Escape, Escapism, Escapology, and the Contemporary American Novel Fall 2019
Division I
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Class Details

One prestigious set of contemporary American novels seems to confuse escape (evasion of real danger, such as Nazism or slavery), escapology (evasion of invented dangers, e.g. Houdini’s art), and escapism (failure to confront real dangers). Some of these books have hyperbolic titles (The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius), as if to suggest escapist or escapological fantasies about political or existential dangers that require real escaping. What’s going on? We’ll discuss the conceptual difficulties of escaping in a globalized world; and in particular, we’ll discuss the resistance of contemporary American novelists to contemporary forms of messianism (or a place of return) and utopianism (or a place of departure). Besides the hyperbolically named texts, we will probably read Emma Donoghue’s Room and Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad. Film paradigms will probably include The Sound of Music and Life is Beautiful.
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 25
Expected: 25
Class#: 1741
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: three formal papers and contribution to class discussions
Prerequisites: a 100-level ENGL course, or a score of 5 on the AP English Literature exam, or a score of 6 or 7 on the Higher Level IB English exam
Enrollment Preferences: English majors, then sophomores considering the major
Distributions: Division I
Attributes: ENGL Literary Histories C

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