AML 4242      American Fiction Since WW II 


Professor Andrew Gordon  Spring 2003 Section 3515

Tu 8-9 (3:00-4:55), Th 9 (4:05-4:55), TUR 2336

Office:             4323 TUR

Hours:             W 6-8, or by appointment

Phone:            392-6650 x254

Mailbox:          4301 TUR


Home page:




The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger (Bantam)

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison (Random)

The Armies of the Night by Norman Mailer (Signet/NAL)

The Book of Daniel by E.L. Doctorow  (Penguin Plume)

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison (Plume)  

The Color Purple by Alice Walker (Washington Square Press)

Middle Passage by Charles Johnson (Atheneum)

Jasmine by Bharati Mukherjee (Fawcett Crest)

American Pastoral by Philip Roth (Vintage)

Contemporary American Literature ed. Perkins (Random)  (the short stories and introductory material on the period and authors are in this volume)

Cultural Contexts for Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man ed. Eric J. Sundquist  (Bedford St. Martin's)

The Twentieth-Century Novel  by R.B. Kershner  (Bedford)




An introduction to American fiction since 1945.  We will read some of the major authors and look at the techniques and themes of the novels and stories, with particular emphasis on African‑American and Jewish‑American fiction.  We will consider the influence of the Cold War, the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War, and other political and historical events on the fiction and also take into account literary movements such as modernism and postmodernism and genres such as realism, naturalism, and metafiction.  


ABOUT THE INSTRUCTOR:  Andrew M. Gordon received the Ph.D. in English from the University of California, Berkeley and has taught post-WW II American fiction, Jewish-American fiction, science fiction, and film at UF since 1975.  He has been a Fulbright Lecturer in American Literature in Spain, Portugal, and the former Yugoslavia, a Visiting Professor in Hungary and Russia, and he taught in the UF summer program in Rome.  He is author of An American Dreamer: A Psychoanalytic Study of the Fiction of Norman Mailer, co-author (with Professor Hernán Vera, UF) of Screen Saviors: Hollywood Fictions of Whiteness, and co-editor (with Professor Peter Rudnytsky, UF) of  Psychoanalyses/Feminisms.  In addition, he has many articles and reviews on contemporary American fiction, including writers such as Barth, Bellow, Kosinski, Ozick, and Pynchon.




1) Attendance and participation.  You are allowed three hours of absence.  Every unexcused cut of one hour after that means two points off your final grade.  Late arrival or early departure from the class counts as half a cut.  Attendance alone is not enough; you are expected and encouraged to participate in class discussion. Attendance and participation = 10%.


2)  Twelve short quizzes.  Short answers on character and plot to keep you current on the reading.  No makeups, but I drop the two lowest quiz grades.  Ten quizzes = 20%.


3)  Two papers. I will suggest topics, but feel free to write on any idea, feeling, character, image, or technique of one work.  Original thought and closely focused, careful analysis are encouraged.  Papers may evolve from but should not merely repeat class discussion.  You are also encouraged to apply to the fiction knowledge from other courses (sociology, history, psychology, philosophy, art, music, women=s studies, or political science, for example).

Papers One is five pages (about 1250 words) on one work from Weeks 1-5 and may but need not necessarily involve research.  Paper Two is a research paper (cite at least three critical sources) of seven-eight pages dealing with one work or a comparison between any two works (but please exclude any work you wrote on for Paper 1).

Alternatively, for Paper One only, you may use the fiction to create your own:  for example, Holden Caulfield 2003,  the secret diaries of Phoebe Caulfield, Holden=s essay about Allie, or D.B. Caulfield=s AThe Secret Goldfish.@  You can write a sequel or prequel, rewrite a scene from another point of view, or introduce a character from one story to a character in another. There are numerous possibilities:  use your imagination and pay careful attention to the personality and style of the character or of the narrator if you are attempting to duplicate or parody elements of the story.  This is a way to experience the fiction by writing your way into it. I would recommend this option only to those with previous experience in fiction writing.  Please consult with me in advance about this option.

I am always glad to discuss paper topics or review rough drafts during office hours. Take advantage of office hours or schedule an appointment or send me an e-mail.  It is far more useful for you to consult with me before handing in the paper than after the graded paper is returned.

If you are writing an analytic paper, you may use critics as a starting point or in order to bolster your own argument, but do not rely on them excessively.  Your voice should dominate the argument.  If you wish to consult the critics, be sure to read more than one to get different opinions.  Document all published sources with quotation marks and notes in MLA Style (see any current handbook on composition, or The MLA Style Manual by Walter Achtert and Joseph Gibaldi, or a recent issue of PMLA in the library for this form of documentation).  Any student who uses material that is not his or her own without proper attribution will fail the course.

Papers are due by 4:00 pm on the due date, in my mailbox or under my office door.  Notify me before the due date if you need more time.  Unexcused late papers lose two points per school day.  Paper One  will not be accepted more than five days late.  Because of the end of the semester, Paper Two  will not be accepted more than two days late.

Please make enough copies of Paper One for the entire class.  To economize, copies may be single-spaced and back-to-back (the version you give me, however, should be double-spaced).  The purpose of these copies is to give you a sense of writing for an audience.  As time permits, we will discuss some papers in class.


Paper One (due Friday, February 7): five pages (about 1250 words) on one  work from Weeks 1-5. Counts 25%.  


           Paper Two (due Monday, April 28): seven-eight pages, (about 1750-1800  words) research paper on one or two works from the course.   Counts 35%.


You may also write on outside works (but clear this with me).

You may revise Paper 1 if its initial  grade is below B.  This is due within one week after the paper is returned.  Papers = 60% .


4)         One oral report (about five minutes per person).  Possibilities include critical information on an author, report on some outside work, discussion or debate on a work, dramatic reading or staging of a scene, a piece parodying the author's style, a review of the film version of the novel, a mock interview with the author, or a videotape presentation.  Avoid capsule biographies; we have those already in the Perkins anthology.  Also avoid reciting a list of works and dates and awards (a printed handout can do this better).

These reports may help you prepare for your papers.  Reports may be done individually or with a group of two-four students (I will distribute sign-up sheets).  Have fun; this is required but ungraded (that is, everyone gets 10 points for doing it).  Let me know if you need audiovisual equipment.  Oral report = 10%


5)       Class etiquette:  please, no chatting, reading, or sleeping during class.    


Note:  There will be no midterm or final exam.





Week 1           Tu, Jan 7        Introduction

Th, Jan 9        Catcher (to p. 52). In Perkins: 1-12.  Kershner: 104-24.


Week 2           Tu, Jan 14      Finish Catcher.  Kershner, Chapter 1. Q (quiz)1.

Th, Jan 16      In Perkins: Updike, AA&P.@  Kershner, Chapter 2.


Week 3           Tu, Jan 21      In Perkins: 60-70; Invisible Man (Introduction, Prologue, Chapter 1-2).  Sundquist, pp. 1-47.   Kershner, Chapter 3-4.

Th, Jan 23      Invisible Man (through Chapter 8).  Sundquist, pp. 48-71.    Q2.


Week 4           Tu, Jan 28      Invisible Man (through Chapter 17).  Sundquist, 112-34.

                        Th, Jan 30      Finish Invisible Man.  Sundquist, 199-247.   Q3.


Week 5           Tu, Feb 4        In Perkins: Baldwin, ASonny=s Blues,@  Kerouac, from On the Road. 

Th, Feb 6        O=Connor, AGood Country People.@ Q4. Paper 1 due by 4 pm, Fr, Feb. 7


Week 6           Tu, Feb 11     The Armies of the Night (through Book One, Part III). In Perkins: 125-26, 459-67.  

Th, Feb 13     The Armies of the Night (through end of Book One).


Week 7           Tu, Feb 18     Finish The Armies of the Night. Q5.

Th, Feb 20     The Book of Daniel (Book One).  In Perkins: 517.


Week 8           Tu, Feb 25     The Book of Daniel (Books Two and Three).

Th, Feb 27     Finish The Book of Daniel. Q6.


Week 9           Tu, Mar 4        The Bluest Eye (to p. 93). In Perkins: 526.   Kershner, Chapter 5.

            Th, Mar 6         Finish The Bluest Eye (also AAfterword@).  Q7.  


Week 10                   SPRING BREAK


Week 11        Tu, Mar 18      The Color Purple (to p. 115). In Perkins: 676-77. 

            Th, Mar 20      Finish The Color Purple. Q8.


Week 12        Tu, Mar 25      Middle Passage (to p. 99).

            Th, Mar 27    Finish Middle Passage. Q9.


Week 13        Tu, Apr 1        In Perkins: Carver, AA Small, Good Thing,@  Le Guin, AOmelas.@

            Th, Apr 3        In Perkins: Ozick, AShawl.@ Q10.


Week 14        Tu, Apr 8        Jasmine (to p. 108).

                         Th, Apr 10     Finish Jasmine. Q11.


Week 15        Tu, Apr 15      American Pastoral (first third). In Perkins: 566-67.

Th, Apr 17      American Pastoral (second third).


Week 16        Tu, Apr 22     Finish American Pastoral. Q12.                   


Paper 2 due by 4 pm Monday, April 28                     





Rules for Writing (these are jokes; each memorably illustrates the rule by breaking it):


1. Verbs has to agree with their subjects.

2. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.

3. And don't start a sentence with a conjunction.

4. It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.

5. Avoid cliches like the plague.

6. Also always avoid annoying alliteration.

7. Be more or less specific.

8. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are (usually) unnecessary.

9. Also too, never, ever use repetitive redundancies.

10. No sentence fragments.

11. Contractions aren't necessary and shouldn't be used.

12. Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.

13. Do not be redundant; do not use more words than necessary; it's highly superfluous.

14. One should never generalize.

15. Comparisons are as bad as cliches.

16. Don't use no double negatives.

17. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.

18. One‑word sentences? Eliminate.

19. Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.

20. The passive voice is to be ignored.

21. Eliminate commas, that are, not necessary. Parenthetical words however should be enclosed in commas.

22. Never use a big word when a diminutive one would suffice.

23. Kill all exclamation points!!!

24. Use words correctly, irregardless of how others use them.

25. Understatement is always the absolute best way to put forth earth shaking ideas.

26. Use the apostrophe in it's proper place and omit it when its not needed.

27. If you've heard it once, you've heard it a thousand times: Resist hyperbole; not one writer in a million can use it well.

28. Puns are for conversation and children, not groan readers.

29. Go all around Robin Hood's barn to avoid colloquialisms.

30. Even if a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.

31. Who needs rhetorical questions?

32. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.

33. Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.






My Rules (joking aside):



1.  Grading Criteria: 

A (90 and above)=  distinguished work, well

written, free from all serious defects,

shows originality and insight.

B (80)=  good work, above average performance, no

                        serious weaknesses in form or content. 

            C (70)=  acceptable work, unobjectionable.  A C paper

                        usually has more writing errors than the A

or B paper and does not show as much depth,

                        originality, or insight.

D (60)=  below average work:  serious or

many defects in form and/or content.

E (55 or under)=  unacceptable.

0=  failure to turn in an assignment may result in failure in the course.

A grade such as A-/B+ means that your paper was on the borderline between the two grades.


2.   Pick a carefully focused topic you can handle in a few pages:  not "The Character of Holden Caulfield in Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye" but "Holden and Phoebe" or "Holden and the Movies."


3.   State your thesis (an argument or point worth proving) at the end of the first or second paragraph.  For example:  "The automobiles and the way they are driven in F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel The Great Gatsby reflect the character of the people who own or drive them."


4.   Be sure your argument is original and worthwhile.  Don't waste your time and mine restating the obvious, reciting critical commonplaces, or retelling the plot.


5.   Support your argument with references to characters, incidents, and relevant quotations.


6.    Your title should reflect your specific topic:  not The Great Gatsby but "Cars in Gatsby."


7.    Novel but "Short Story."  In other words, underline (or italicize) the titles of long works but use "   " around the titles of short works.  The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald but "The Swimmer" by John Cheever.


8.    Do not underline or put in quotation marks your own title.


9.  Recount narrative action in present tense:  "At Myrtle's party, everyone gets drunk and Tom breaks Myrtle's nose."  Exception:  action which is antecedent to the "present tense" of the narrative:  "Gatsby had always been given to grandiose dreams, dreams which seem realized when he met Daisy in 1917."


10.   Use "   " even when quoting only a few words from the text.


11.  Avoid long quotations, especially in short papers.  If a quotation is longer than 50 words, set it off by indenting and single-spacing it.  You don't need to use "   " then since it is already set off from your text.


12.  When you are quoting two lines of poetry as if they were prose, put them in "     " and use a slash / to indicate line endings.  When you are quoting three or more lines of poetry, indent, single-space and write them out exactly as they appear on the page in the original text.  You don't need to put them in "   " then.         


13.  Dialogue is already in "   " in a story, so quote using double quotation marks:  "=    '" (13).


14.  Follow American punctuation:  commas and periods go inside the quotation marks, unless a parentheses follows.  Thus:


          "        ,"          or   "    ."


           But       "         " (13),  or   "    " (13).


15.  Number all pages (except cover page and page one).


16.  Keep a copy of the paper for your protection.


17.  Never end a line with a hyphen.


18.  Avoid paragraphs that are too short (one or two sentences) or too long (one page).


19.  A hyphen is indicated by a -.  A dash is indicated by a --.  Don't confuse the two.


20.  A  three-dot ellipsis (. . .) indicates that something has been omitted from the middle of quoted matter.  You don't need the ellipsis at the beginning of a quotation (it is obvious that something has been omitted if your quotation does not begin with a capital letter).  A four-dot ellipsis (. . . .) indicates that the end of a sentence or a sentence or more has been omitted (the fourth dot is the period ending the sentence).


21.  Use brackets [   ] not parentheses to indicate your own insertions within quoted matter:  "His [Jim's] notion was wrong."  Parentheses within quoted matter are taken as the original author's.


22.  I don't expect perfection in papers because I don't find it in my own work.  Everyone can use a good editor.  Writing errors are evidence that you are doing your own work and honestly trying.  Use your mistakes: learn from them and learn to be your own editor. 


23.  I value papers that do some original thinking and teach me something new about a novel or story.  When you're writing, remember:  you're the teacher.


24.  Some abbreviations I use in correcting or commenting on papers:



AWK= awkward


BA= "Not only x. . .but also y."  Keep them balanced, grammatically equivalent:  "She wanted not only to swim the English Channel but also to climb Mount Everest."


CHOP= choppy writing.  Too many short sentences in a row; this usually goes along with W, O-U, and R.


D= diction (word choice:  check dictionary or thesarus)


DP= dangling participle:  "Walking down the street, the Empire State Building came into view."  Who is doing the walking:  the building?


FS= fragment sentence.  For example:  He wanted to run.  Although he could barely walk.  The second "sentence" is FS (a subordinate clause belonging to the first sentence).


H= "On the one hand. . . .On the other hand. . . ."   Don't use one without the other.  Think of a pair of handcuffs.


ITS= one of the most common spelling mistakes is the incorrect use of "it's."  This can only be used as a contraction for "it is."  The possessive of "it" is "its," formed like "yours," "theirs," or "ours"--without the apostrophe.


N-P= lack of agreement between noun and pronoun:  "Will everyone take their seat?"  Incorrect because "everyone" is singular.  Should be "Will everyone take her seat?" or "his or her seat."  "Each" is also singular.  You can tell by the singular verbs:  "everyone is" or "each is."


O-U= omit unneeded words

PSV= avoid passive tense (not "the ball is hit by me" but "I hit the ball").


R= needless repetition

            (Note: a lot of what I do in reading papers is

                        crossing things out:  unnecessary or repetitious

                        words, phrases, sentences, or occasionally entire



RO= run-on sentence


CS= run-on sentence, comma splice (using a comma where a period, semicolon, or comma plus coordinating conjunction is called for).  For example:  He wanted to go, however, he couldn't.  That's CS because the clauses on both sides of the comma can stand as independent sentences, and you can=t link sentences with a comma.  Correct to:  He wanted to go.  However, he couldn't.  

                           He wanted to go; however, he couldn't.

               He wanted to go, but he couldn't.


S-V= lack of agreement between subject and verb.  "High levels of air pollution damages the respiratory tract" is incorrect.  Ignore the prepositional phrase "of air pollution"; the true subject is "levels."  Correct to "High levels of air pollution damage the respiratory tract."


SP= spelling


T= wrong tense


U= unclear


V= vague


W= wordy


&   = paragraph


T   = good point