English 9165A

The Postmodern in Cinema and Literature

Instructor: Professor Christopher Gittings
Fall Half Course.

*This course will include a three-hour movie screening on Thursday evenings and a two-hour lecture on Monday afternoons.

‘an incredulity towards metanarratives’
           Jean François Lyotard

“It is safest to grasp the concept of the postmodern as an attempt to think the present historically in an age that has forgotten how to think historically in the first place.” 
           Fredric Jameson

What is/was the postmodern? Does the term still have critical utility? It is certainly not an unproblematic or precise term and quickly became contested ground for influential scholarship in the humanities and social sciences when it first appeared. This course will provide students with a rigorous interrogation of the postmodern beginning with the concept’s emergence in philosophical thought, and working through critical parsings of its aesthetic and ideological formations in cinema and literature. Our readings of the postmodern will track the various and variant relationships of postmodernism to modernism, poststructuralism, and postcolonialism. The seminar’s inquiries into the postmodern will be informed by questions of identity and representation; how did the postmodern turn inflect representations of nation, class, gender/sexuality and race? Our knowledge of the postmodern in cinema and literature will be informed by readings from Jean Baudrillard, Hans Bertens, Barbara Creed, Richard Dyer, Thomas Elsaesser, David Harvey, Ihab Hassan, Linda Hutcheon, Andreas Huyssen, Fredric Jameson, Jean François Lyotard, Laura Mulvey, and Hayden White.

Cinematic texts will be chosen from:

Blue Velvet (USA, David Lynch, 1986)
Brazil (UK, Terry Gilliam, 1985)
Stories We Tell (Canada, Sarah Polley, 2012)
Memento (USA, Christopher Nolan, 2000)
Proteus (Canada/South Africa, John Greyson and Jack Lewis, 2003)
The Group of Seven Inches (Gisele Gordon, Kent Monkman, 2005)
Far From Heaven (USA/France, Todd Haynes, 2002)
Orlando (UK/Russia/Italy/France/Netherlands, Sally Potter, 1992)
Westworld (USA, Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan, 2016) episodes from Series 1
Being John Malkovic (USA, Spike Jonze, 1999)
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (USA, Michel Gondry, 2004)

Literary texts will be selected from:

Jeanette Winterson Sexing the Cherry (UK, 1989)
Daphne Marlatt, Ana Historic (Canada, 1988)
Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale (Canada, 1985)
Alice Munro, “Friend of My Youth” (1990) “Open Secrets” (1994) (Canada)
Alasdair Gray Lanark: A Life in Four Books (Scotland/UK, 1982)
Dionne Brand, Land to Light On (Canada, 1997)
Thomas King, Green Grass, Running Water (Canada, 1993)
Michael Ondaatje In the Skin of a Lion (Canada, 1987)
Timothy Findley, The Wars (Canada, 1977)
Kurt Vonnegut Jr. Slaughterhouse Five (USA, 1969)
Norman Mailer, Why Are We in Vietnam? (USA, 1967)
Leonard Cohen, Beautiful Losers (Canada, 1966)
Madeleine Thien,  Do Not Say We Have Nothing (Canada, 2016)

Readings: TBA

View the course syllabus here: English 9165A. PDF download