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Contemporary Literature: The Fiction of Generation X

Professor Naomi Mandel

Evan Dorkin's comix included in Generation Ecch! The Backlash Starts Here, by Jason Cohen and Michael Krugman. New York: Fireside, 1994.
The image above is a section of Evan Dorkin's comix included in Generation Ecch! The Backlash Starts Here, by Jason Cohen and Michael Krugman. New York: Fireside, 1994.

Course Description

This class will focus on fiction by and about Generation X, the generation born between 1960-1980. GenXers came of age in a world marked by the collapse of Communism and the ascendency of the New Right, as the discourse of capitalism, the economic function and social significance of the commodity, replaced the commitment to liberal causes that characterized the 60s and 70s. For Generation X, happiness is the product of Prozac, serenity is elicited by Valium, love is haunted by AIDS. Its catchword is "whatever," its anthem "Nevermind." How does Generation X think about identity (in the heyday of "identity politics"), history (with the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the onset of the Gulf War), and violence (before and after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001 and the global "war on terror")?

Required Texts

McInerney, Jay. Bright Lights Big City (1984)
Ellis, Bret Easton. Less Than Zero (1985)
Coupland, Douglas. Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture (1991)
Delvaux, Martine. "The Exit of a Generation: The 'Whatever' Philosophy."*
Howe, Neil and Bill Strauss. 13th Gen: Abort, Retry, Ignore, Fail? (selections)*
Rushkoff, Douglas. "Introduction" to The GenX Reader*
Homes, A.M. The End of Alice (1996)
Alexie, Sherman. Reservation Blues (1995)
Whitehead, Colson. The Intuitionist (1999)
Walter, Jess. The Zero (2006).

* indicates text available on Sakai

Recommended Texts:

Cite It Right: the SourceAid guide to citation, research, and avoiding plagiarism / co-authors, Tom Fox, Julia Johns, Sarah Keller. Chapters 1 and 4. Electronic resource (available in the URI library).
"Acknowledging the Work of Others"*

* indicates text available on Sakai

Course Requirements

Formal Paper #1: Close Reading. 3-5 pages. 10%.
Formal Paper #2: Reception Study. 3-5 pages. 15%.
Formal Paper #3: Critical Engagement. 3-5 pages. 20%.
Formal Paper #4: Research Paper. 5-7 pages. 25%.
Prospectus for Paper #4: 1-2 pages. Due in conference. 5%.
Midterm: 10%. Academic Honesty and MLA Bibliography
Attendance and Participation: 15%

Learning Objectives:

This class is designed to REINFORCE your skills in close reading, research, argumentation, and analysis.

Essential learning outcomes are as follows:

•    Gaining factual knowledge
•    Gaining a broader understanding and appreciation of intellectual/cultural activity
•    Developing skill in expressing yourself in writing
•    Learn how to find and use resources for answering questions or solving problems
•    Learn to analyze and critically evaluate ideas, arguments, and points of view
•    Acquire an interest in learning more by asking your own questions and seeking answers


Any student with a documented disability is welcome to contact me as early in the semester as possible so that we may arrange reasonable accommodations. As part of this process, please be in touch with Disability Services for Students Office at 330 Memorial Union, 401-874-2098.

Course Policies


Attendance means: being present in class, bringing the assigned text in hard copy with you to class, participating in class discussion, and note-taking. Being present in class without the assigned text, or without having read the assigned text, will reflect negatively on your attendance record. If unforeseen circumstances keep you away from class for 2 or more consecutive classes, you MUST contact me (or get someone else to contact me if you are unable) to let me know what is going on. I will interpret silence from you as an indication that you are indifferent to your grade and to this class. If this is NOT the case, it is up to you to let me know in a timely manner.

Illness Due to Flu

The nation is experiencing widespread influenza-like illness. If any of us develop flu-like symptoms, we are being advised to stay home until the fever has subsided for 24 hours.  So, if you exhibit such symptoms, please do not come to class. You are not required to present a note from a healthcare provider. Notify me at 874-4011 or of your status, and we will communicate through the medium we have established for the class. We will work together to ensure that course instruction and work is completed for the semester.

Handheld electronic devices

Ringing phones, glowing screens, and even the operation of such devices are disruptive influences not conducive to learning.  Their indiscriminate usage in class is inconsiderate to students and to the instructor.  Furthermore, sending text messages during a class is a completely inappropriate use of these devices, as it diverts attention away from the educational function.  
Laptops (or any wireless computers or similar electronic devices) may be used for note-taking or specified course activities with prior permission from the instructor. Students using these devices for note-taking must turn off the wireless function and close all applications/windows other than the appropriate document or application unless the instructor specifically permits otherwise.
Students who require access to hand-held or wireless technology for purposes of a documented disability may use them according to stipulations in the student's Notification Form.

Academic Honesty 

Students are expected to be honest in all academic work. A student’s name on any written work, quiz or exam shall be regarded as assurance that the work is the result of the student’s own independent thought and study. Work should be stated in the student’s own words, properly attributed to its source. Students have an obligation to know how to quote, paraphrase,
summarize, cite and reference the work of others with integrity.

The following are examples of academic dishonesty.

• Using material, directly or paraphrasing, from published sources (print or electronic) without appropriate citation
• Claiming disproportionate credit for work not done independently
• Unauthorized possession or access to exams
• Unauthorized communication during exams
• Unauthorized use of another’s work or preparing work for another student
• Taking an exam for another student
• Altering or attempting to alter grades
• The use of notes or electronic devices to gain an unauthorized advantage during exams
• Fabricating or falsifying facts, data or references
• Facilitating or aiding another’s academic dishonesty
• Submitting the same paper for more than one course without prior approval from the instructors.

URI’s Student Handbook, in particular Section 4.1, provides guidelines concerning academic honesty. Additional assistance is available at the Writing Center and the Academic Enhancement Center.



This page last updated:12/25/2008 by: Naomi Mandel

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