Comparative Literature 240 G: Narrating the Family
As common and seemingly universal a word such as “family” seems to be, it has been scrutinized and criticized in literary and cultural studies for its complicity in heteronormativity, patriarchy, racism, capitalism, and more; despite this critique, “family” remains a resilient term for describing intimate human relations. Our intent in C LIT 240 is to examine the deployment of family structures in literature of the 20th century, an era already cautious if not hostile to scenes of domestic bliss, and by this examination of texts themselves to consider whether we can find, as Foucault suggests, “something altogether different,” behind both sentimental and aggressively critical accounts of “family.” We will work through novels and short stories, examining the critiques they offer as well as how their interest in narrating the family informs their works. We will specifically examine how their different approaches to thematizing and narrating families interact with contemporary discourse on identity, history, nationality, and time. As a writing course, assignments will center on developing and practicing skills of close reading, commentary, comparative analysis, and research.
-William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury (Vintage: ISBN: 978-0679732242)
-Virginia Woolf, The Years (Harvest Books: ISBN: 9780156034852)
-Herta Müller, Nadirs (U of Nebraska P: ISBN: 978-0803282544)