|English 52B F2001
Studies in American Fiction: Melville and Pynchon
From M-D to M&D: We will read three of the longest, greatest, most ambitious, and most awesome & maddening novels in American literature: Melvilles Moby-Dick (1851) and Pynchons Gravitys Rainbow (1973) and Mason & Dixon (1997). Melvilles best novel is not just a whale story; it is an exploration of whether an epic can be written about common people, not aristocracy. It is also a novel of Shakespearean ambition combining both tragedy and comedy and taking on such huge subjects as industrialization, colonialism, science, religion, and metaphysics, and dominated by a tension between monomaniac, revenge-minded, disdainful and power-hungry Ahab vs. a common sailor (Ishmael) who seems (in some passages, at least) to be self-deprecating, accommodating, endlessly curious about other people and cultures, democratically minded.
Over Gravitys Rainbow looms not the spectre of a whale but a man-made nemesis, the Rocket, and the military-industrial-scientific complexes that produced it; it also contains the greatest comic Ishmaelean hero in modern American fiction, one Tyrone Slothrop. In Mason & Dixon an astronomer and a surveyor have been tapped to settle a boundary dispute between two colonial territories. The novel morphs into a tragicomic deconstruction of the Age of Enlightenment that bequeathed us the modern and postmodern eras of multinational corporations, pop culture, and uncertain certainties of science and calculus. And both Pynchon novels are Melvillean in scope and ambition.
With these Leviathan-novels, you will go on three truly memorable voyages all in one semester. If we learn from Ishmael help each other out, you should live to tell about it.
Illustrated Reading List (see below)
|English 52B Syllabus
Sept. 5: course introduction; lecture #1 on Ishmaels vs. Ahabs world-views.
Oct. 3: Pynchon, Gravitys Rainbow, introductory lecture; read Part One (episodes 1-21). See GR Reading Notes #1 linked to course web-page AND CONSULT THE WEISENBURGER GUIDE TO GRAVITY'S RAINBOW THROUGHOUT.
Mason and Dixon
HELPFUL ON-LINE RESOURCES INCLUDE:
AN ON-LINE CONCORDANCE TO MASON & DIXON, part of the Hyperarts site. To use, see the "Alpha Index" at top right of page & click on appropriate letter.
PS's on-line essay on first reading the novel (see below)
SEE ALSO the essay collection Pynchon and Mason & Dixon, on General Reserve in McCabe; PLUS Tony Tanner's essay on Mason & Dixon (class handout). Recommended essays:
Nov. 7: Mason & Dixon, Part I, chs. 1-20; introductory lecture. See PSs reading notes for each chapter.
Dec. 19 (Wednesday): final longer paper due, 8-12pp. double-spaced, on either Melville or Pynchon (if on Melville, choose a different topic from first longer paper on Melville). You must use at least one secondary source from McCabe library. LPAC 206 by 5pm. No extensions.
|English 52B Fall 2001 Melville & Pynchon
Regular attendance: because the class meets just once a week, more than 1 unexcused absence over the course of the semester will hurt your grade.
Grading: Quality of class participation counts 25%; Papers 75%. Poor attendance and class participation and late papers will negatively affect your grade, just as poor written work will. Clear improvement in your writing over the course of the semester will help your final grade, as will thoughtful class participation.
A note about honesty and coursework: All writing that you turn in for this English class should be yours alone and done solely for this course. When you are borrowing ideas and language from others it is your responsibility to acknowledge these sources accurately; anything less constitutes plagiarism and severe penalties may be involved (including flunking the course and suspension for a semester) regardless of whether you intended to plagiarize or not.
Moby-Dick (Oxford World's Classics)