English 179 - Winter, 2018

Topics in Comparative American Literatures

Class Information

Instructor: Jerng, Mark
CRN: 74425
Time: MWF 1:10-2:00
Location: 207 Olson


In an interview, Junot Diaz describes looking both at his grandmother, who worked as a tenant farmer in the Dominican Republic in near-slavery conditions, and at his brother, a US marine combat veteran, and asks how one accounts for such a disjunction and simultaneity. Diaz concludes: It's sometimes really helpful for people to assemble selves not always deploying realism. Realism cannot account for my little brother and my grandmother, but Octavia Butler's science fiction can, and Samuel Delany's generic experiments can. This class takes Diaz's thoughts as their point of departure and explores science fiction and fantasy written from the 1970s to the present in order to think about how these genres provide a better account of the divergent experiences of the post 1970s era than realism does. In what ways are fantasy and science fiction better resources for expressing the co-existence of formal equality and structural inequality, a better way of exploring a moment of race relations in which symbolic gains co-exist with increased dispossession for others, and in which the history of slavery gets revived in various forms of unfreedom and ownership? This course explores various writers, from Diaz, Butler, and Delany, to Kenneth Liu, and Sherman Alexie, to analyze the relationships among race, historicity, citizenship, capital, and war in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century.


Participation and Attendance: 10%
Midterm 15%
Short Exercise: 15%
Textual Analysis Paper 20%
Online Book Review Final Project 20%
Final Exam: 20%


Flight, Sherman Alexie
Return from Neveryona, Samuel Delany
Kindred, Octavia Butler
Midnight Robber, Nalo Hopkinson
The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz