ENGL 266
Postmodernism Fall 2024
Division I Writing Skills
Cross-listed COMP 231

Class Details

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 Murakami Haruki’s euphoric conspiracy novels. 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 around the world, 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. Texts will include essays by critics like Jean Baudrillard, Fredric Jameson, Jean-François Lyotard, and Azuma Hiroki; novels and short stories by writers like Don DeLillo, 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 closely and applying their ideas to the artistic texts in creative and interesting ways. Open to sophomores as well as advanced students.
The Class: Format: tutorial; After an introductory lecture meeting, students will meet with the instructor in pairs for approximately an hour each week.
Limit: 10
Expected: 10
Class#: 1708
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: participation plus 4 papers (4-5 pages), 2 short papers (1-2 pages), and 4 peer critiques (1 page)
Prerequisites: a previous literature or critical theory course at Williams plus sophomore standing or higher, or permission of instructor
Enrollment Preferences: Comparative Literature majors, students with a demonstrated interest
Distributions: Division I Writing Skills
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
ENGL 266 Division I COMP 231 Division I
WS Notes: Students will write several regularly spaced papers that build on one another by revisiting, extending, and/or rewriting earlier material. Students will receive detailed written feedback from the instructor on each paper, addressing argument, organization, and style, as well as written peer feedback on the longer papers. (See requirements for details about the number and type of assignments.)
Attributes: ENGL Criticism Courses

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