David Foster Wallace’s Syllabus For 'English 170R: Selected Obscure/Eclectic Fictions'

David Foster Wallace:

It’s a 170-grade Advanced Seminar, meaning it’s “speaking-intensive” and presupposes the basic set of lit-crit tools taught in English 67. Structurally, the course is meant to be more a colloquium than a prof.-led seminar. We are going to read and converse about nine novels (some of which are kind of long) dating from the 1930s–1970s. They’re books that are arguably good and/or important but are not, in the main, read or talked about that much as of 2003. At the least, then, English 170R affords a chance to read some stuff you’re not apt to get in other Lit classes. It would also be good to talk this term about the dynamics of the Lit canon and about why some important books get taught a lot in English classes and others do not — which will, of course, entail our considering what modifiers like “important,” “good,” and “influential” mean w/r/t modern fiction. We can approach the books from a variety of different critical, theoretical, and ideological perspectives, too, depending on students’ backgrounds and interests. In essence, we can talk about whatever you wish to — provided that we do it cogently and well.

Another “Dave W.” syllabus, another masterpiece. Sidetone: can you imagine trying to bullshit your way through one of his classes? To his face? I get the shivers just thinking about it.

/via The Howling Fantods