Richard Powers’ American Novels: Metafiction as Realism
Dr. Rick Stock
November 3, 10:00 and 14:00, in person
November 4, 14:00, online
November 10, 10:00 and 14:00, in person
November 11, 14:00, online
November 18, 14:00, online
November 24, 10:00 and 14:00, in person
November 25, 14:00, online
Richard Powers is widely recognized as one of the leading American novelists writing today. He won the National Book Award in 2007, the Pulitzer Prize in 2019, and a MacArthur Fellowship earlier in his career. Powers published his 13th novel (Bewilderment) in 2021to widespread critical acclaim; Powers is both accomplished and still actively producing. This course will address two of Powers’ novels, Prisoner’s Dilemma (1988) and The Echo Maker (2007), novels that can be seen to represent Powers’ early and middle periods.
Metafiction is a literary device that is most often associated with postmodernism. Metafiction breaks the norms of conventional storytelling by, paradoxically, being about the story itself. The effect of metafiction is often seen as solipsistic, playful, and ultimately empty.
Literary realism seeks to make an immediate, human connection between the reader and the story/author. Realism seeks to do this by making storytelling transparent by following literary convention and by telling a story that compares accurately with what the reader perceives as the real world.
Metafiction and realism, therefore, seem to be opposite literary styles. However, in the after-postmodernism period, some authors find ways to combine these styles to unique effects in literary history. Richard Powers is one of these authors.
This course will give students a better understanding of metafiction, realism, contemporary American fiction, narrative and the novel, and Powers’ oeuvre.
Murals of North America: A Century of Social and Political Commentary
Paul Von Blum
September 19 - 23, 10.00 - 11.40 and 14.00 - 15.40, G316
For the past century, visual artists have turned to public outdoor and indoor murals to provide social and political commentary. This mini-course will survey some of the major highlights of this vibrant tradition in North America. It will look at three major developments that have made durable contributions to 20th and 21st century art history generally and to socially conscious art specifically. The three areas are Mexican muralism of the early to mid-20th century, U.S. social and political murals from the Works Progress Administration during the New Deal in the 1930s and beyond, and the American Mural renaissance from the late 1960s to the present.
Probably November 21 – 25, Times TBA
Historiographically speaking this course is a study of the complex processes that evolve social memory and shape various (often deeply contested) historical narratives. Practically speaking, this course is a study of objects (“scraps” and “fragments”) that “fix” history within the matrices of particular technologies (manuscripts, books, photographs, recorded sound and moving image) at a particular moment in time and amid a variety of historical contexts (most of which quickly become invisible to posterity). Our challenge, really the challenge for all researchers, is to reconcile the process by which fixed history is evolved into both memory and narrative.