HENK00006U English - Free topic 6: Recent American Non-Fiction and Twenty-First Century Transnational American Fiction

Volume 2018/2019

Recent American Non-Fiction (Tina Lupton)

This is a course for students interested in exploring what it might mean to write creative non-fiction in the present moment and in looking at the current US landscape through the work of writers in this genre. How do you position yourself as a narrator? For what kind of audience? How do journalist topics work generate and sustain interest? We’ll be reading some full books by masters of the craft – stand out figures in the worlds of nature writing, food journalism, and the essay as polemic – alongside essays by celebrated writers including Joan Didion, Annie Dillard, Leslie Jamison and David Foster Wallace. In each case, we’ll be discussing both the issues raised by and the craft involved in the work we read. Classes will include visits by practicing writers and opportunities to produce and workshop our own writing. While students are encouraged to see this as a practical writing course, offering the opportunity to develop and be assessed on the basis of their own creative non-fiction, there will also be opportunities to write more scholarly pieces on this material for the assignment.


Twenty-First Century Transnational American Fiction (Martyn Bone)

In this course--designed to supplement Tina’s “Recent American Non-Fiction”--we will consider developments in American fiction during the first two decades of the twentieth-century. There will be a particular focus on “transnational” or “global” novels, and through the critical lens of the “transnational turn” in American studies. We will discuss the recent flourishing of fiction by writers who are themselves immigrants, or the descendants of immigrants, as well as the conspicuous proliferation of novels—by both American and non-American authors--that situate the United States at wider global (hemispheric, transatlantic, transpacific) scales.

We will consider how such texts recast our understandings of the United States and attend to its location within a “globalized” world. We will discuss the ways in which these texts register the United States’ continuing social, political, and military power, in the wake of specific historical moments and events (i.e., the war in Vietnam, the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the 1965 Hart-Cellar immigration act). We will pay particular attention to representations of immigration and race, and how these novels may interrogate established U.S. understandings of those terms. We will assess how these writers and their works challenge conventional ideas of “the [Great] American novel” as an exceptional(ist) enterprise formulated within the borders of the U.S. nation-state (by native-born white male authors). We will ponder to what degree “American literature” is now also (Anglophone) “world literature,” and why such an equation might be problematic. We will also consider the formal dimensions of these novels: for example, the ways in which they may blur the boundaries between fiction and non-fiction, or novel and autobiography.

Primary texts will be supplemented by recent scholarship in American literary studies and transnational American studies. Students who have taken the BA course “Introduction to American Studies” (including the subsection on transnational American studies, with a focus on Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novel Americanah) are encouraged to see this course as an extension of some of the themes addressed in that course/subsection.  

Recent American Non-Fiction

Preliminary reading list:

  • Jon Krakauer, Into The Wild (1996)
  • Michael Pollan The Omnivores Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (2006)
  • Rebecca Solinit, Men Explain Things to Me (2014)
  • Maggie Nelson, The Red Parts (2007)


Twenty-First Century Transnational American Fiction

Primary texts:

Around five primary texts will be selected from the following “long list” of ten novels (NB: a final choice will be made when the book order is submitted in late June)

  • Dave Eggers, What Is the What?: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng: A Novel (2006)
  • Mohsin Hamid, The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2007)
  • Dinaw Mengestu, The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears (2007)
  • Ha Jin, A Free Life (2008)
  • Alaa Al Aswany, Chicago (2008)
  • Teju Cole, Open City (2011)
  • Marlon James, A Brief History of Seven Killings (2014)
  • Viet Thanh Nguyen, The Sympathizer (2015)
  • Yaa Gyasi, Homegoing (2016)
  • Rabih Alameddine, The Angel of History (2016)
Recent American Non-Fiction will be taught in weeks 37-44 and Twenty-First Century Transnational American Fiction which will be taught in weeks 44-50.
This course only leads to exams Free Topic 1, Free Topic 2 and Free Topic 3.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 56
  • Preparation
  • 353,5
  • Total
  • 409,5
Type of assessment
Portfolio, A joint portfolio for both courses uploaded in digital exam: Deadline January 9th 2019
2017-Studieordning: a joint portfolio for the two courses, which will consist of:
• Two creative non-fiction OR standard essays (5-7 pages) for “Recent American Non-Fiction” to be submitted in week 40 and 44. Each will make up ¼ of the final grade.
• Two short essays (5-7 pages) for “Twenty-First Century Transnational American Fiction” to be submitted in week 47 and week 50 (NB: specific dates TBC). Each essay will make up 25% of the final grade.
Exam registration requirements

This course only leads to exams Free Topic 1, Free Topic 2 and Free Topic 3.

Criteria for exam assesment