JCIV-350-01 Philip Roth: Fiction About Fiction
Spring for 2014-2015
The Jewish-American writer Philip Roth is reckoned as one of the most important novelists in the American post-War literary canon. While the comic, pornographic, and scatological dimensions of his work are well chronicled, less has been said about Roth’s enduring commitment to exploring genres of post-modern, metafictional and autofictional storytelling. In this course, we will read Roth’s “greatest hits” (e.g. Goodbye, Columbus, Portnoy’s Complaint, American Pastoral) with an eye towards understanding how he explored the question of (Jewish) identity by recourse to a fiction about fiction. This inquiry will require that we study his self- reflexive masterpieces such as My Life As a Man, The Ghost Writer, The Counterlife, and Operation Shylock, among others. When all is said and done, students will not only learn about Roth’s bold secular Jewish vision, his views on sexuality, and American history, but they will familiarize themselves with some of the late 20th century’s most intriguing forms of narrative experimentation.
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