A Contemporary Crash Course

Through the month of July, a group of international scholars are getting a grand tour of contemporary American literature through a program sponsored by the State Department and the University of Louisville. As a story from WPFL notes, the participants are far-flung, hailing from “18 countries—including Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Zambia.” U of L professor Tom Byers, who coordinates the program, says, “An awful lot of people around the world are teaching American literature from Xeroxed copies… In some cases they’re lecturing about writers that their students don’t have an opportunity to read.”

Byers mentions a few of the writers covered during the program, but it’s not hard to dig up a complete list (PDF). (The syllabus says 2009, but the readings seem to jibe with the 2010 travel schedule, also a PDF.) The list:

John Ashbery, Collected Poems, 1956 – 1987
Don DeLillo, White Noise
Junot Diaz, The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
Percival Everett, I Am Not Sydney Poitier
Paula Geyh, et al., eds., Postmodern American Fiction: A Norton Anthology
Allen Ginsberg, Howl and Other Poems
Sarah Gorham, The Cure
Paul Hoover, ed., Postmodern American Poetry: A Norton Anthology
Maxine Hong Kingston, The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood among Ghosts
Jhumpa Lahiri, Interpreter of Maladies
Brian Leung, World Famous Love Acts
J. D. McClatchy, ed., The Vintage Book of Contemporary American Poetry
Toni Morrison, A Mercy
Harryette Mullen, Recyclopedia
Lynn Nottage, Ruined
Naomi Shihab Nye, You and Yours
Suzan-Lori Parks, Venus
Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49
Adrienne Rich, Adrienne Rich’s Poetry and Prose
Jeffrey Skinner, Salt Water Amnesia
Gerald Vizenor, Hiroshima Bugi: Atomu 57
August Wilson, Fences
Karen Tei Yamashita, The I Hotel

That’s a lot of postmodern material for a group of teachers who may have been acquiring American literature via Xerox. And a lot of reading, period: I Hotel alone, which came out in May, clocks in at 600-plus pages.

2 thoughts on “A Contemporary Crash Course

  1. In what world is Howl contemporary American literature? Like saying EASY RIDER is contemporary American film. Bizarre.

  2. Interesting list, but how long ago did the participants get the books? That’s about 2 months worth of reading if you don’t have anything else to do.

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