Friday, 27 July 2007

Contemporary writing again

Here's a draft reading list for that contemporary writing course. The theme I decided to go with was, roughly, 'history' - works that deal with a sense of belatedness, or that rewrite earlier works, or that talk about the ways in which our "free" choices, as subjects, are constrained or determined by history, or all of the above. I've tried to get a mix of nationalities, ethnicities, genders, genres, forms, and decades (though I notice I've completely overlooked the 70s and the 80s only get one book on the list.)

(The odd book out is 253, which I just really want to teach. And I do think its experiments with narrative form and the differences between the Web and the print versions are interesting and "contemporary", I'm just not sure how it links into the "history" theme. But it sits nicely with Slaughterhouse 5.)

1. Toni Morrison, Beloved (1987)

2. Tom Cho, [selection of short stories - 'Dirty Dancing' and 'The Sound of Music'?] (2004-7)

3. Alison Bechdel, Fun Home (2006)

4. Geoff Ryman, 253 (1998)

5. Femi Osofisan, Tegonni: An African Antigone (1994)

6. Vladimir Nabokov, Pale Fire (1962)

7. Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (1966)

8. Derek Walcott, Omeros (1990)

9. Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse 5 (1969)

10. Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea (1966)

All comments gratefully received. I know Ros & Guil and Wide Sargasso Sea aren't the most interesting texts in the world maybe, but on the other hand I don't know where I'd be today without them, and at least there'll be reams of secondary literature.

1 comment:

Una said...

I haven't read most of these. It looks like a brilliant course, I'm jealous of the students. The Femi Osofisan sounds fascinating.

If they haven't yet read Ros & Guil and Wide Sargasso Sea, this seems to be exactly the point where they should be getting to read them.

Most interesting books I've read about the 1970s recently are David Peace's Red Riding quartet, although they are very bleak and brutal crime novels set in Yorkshire around the period the Yorkshire Ripper was loose. I think they nail how the Ripper was the manifestation of deeper social corruption and decay arising from rampant misogyny. But they are by no means an easy read. The best one, I think is the one set during the Jubilee Year, handily called Nineteen Seventy-Seven.

Or you could show them an episode of Life on Mars, if the theme is history, and how we relate to it.