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Experimental Fiction II

Class at Faculty of Arts |



The course will explore a range of British & American authors whose work--whether programmatically or not--has been described as "experimental", i.e. resistant of the dominant/mainstream poetics and mimesis, and continuing with the unfinished project of the historical avant-garde. Departing from an introductory lecture on "the modernism that wouldn't die - Joyce, Beckett, Kafka", the course will consider how the modernist project of exploring the materiality of language has been pursued from the avant-garde of the 1960s to the present. Authors covered include William S. Burroughs, Ann Quin, Christine Brooke-Rose, Brigid Brophy, B.S. Johnson, John Barth, Gilbert Sorrentino, Kathy Acker, David Foster Wallace, Mark Z. Danielewski, Iain Sinclair, and Joshua Cohen.


“Joyce, Kafka, Beckett – Realism, Experimentalism & Ideology”

Feb 26 William S. Burroughs, Naked Lunch (1959) – Selection

Electronic Revolution (UbuClassics, 2005, 1-37)

Mar 5 Ann Quin, Berg (1964)

Philip Stevick, “Voices in the Head: Style and Consciousness in the Fiction of Ann Quin” (Breaking the Sequence, eds. Friedman & Fuchs [Princeton UP, 1989] 231-9)

Mar 12 Christine Brooke-Rose, Between (1969)

“Stories, Theories and Things” (Stories, Theories and Things [Cambridge UP, 1991] 3-15)

Mar 19 Brigid Brophy, In Transit (1969)

Peter Parker, “’Aggressive, Witty & Unrelenting’: Brophy and Firbank”

(Review of Contemporary Fiction, 15:3 (Fall 1995): 68-78)

Mar 26 B. S. Johnson, House Mother Normal (1971)

“Introduction,” Aren’t You Rather Young to be Writing Your Memoirs?

(Review of Contemporary Fiction, 5:2 [Summer 1985]: 4-13)

Apr 2 John Barth, Letters (1979)

“The Literature of Exhaustion,” “The Literature of Replenishment”

(The Friday Book [John Hopkins UP, 1984] 62-76, 193-206)

Apr 9 Gilbert Sorrentino, Mulligan Stew (1979)

“Writing and Writers: Disjecta Membra” (Review of Contemporary Fiction, 8:3 [Fall 1988] 25-35)

Apr 16 Kathy Acker, Empire of the Senseless (1988)

“A Few Notes on My Books” (Review of Contemporary Fiction, 9:3 [Fall 1989]: 31-6)

Apr 23 David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest (1997)

“Fictional Futures and the Conspicuously Young” (Review of Contemporary Fiction, 8:3 [Fall 1988]: 36-53)

Apr 30 Mark Z. Danielewski, House of Leaves (2000)

David Vichnar, “Leaf/ving the Book/House”

(Subtexts: Essays on Fiction [Prague: LPB, 2015] 120-35)

May 7 Iain Sinclair, Edge of the Orison (2006)

”‘An Accidental Novel’: Iain Sinclair Interviewed” (online on 3AM Magazine website)

May 14 Joshua Cohen, Witz (2010)

Louis Armand, “Laughlines from the Shoahshowbusiness”

(Terrain: Essays on the New Poetics [Prague: LPB, 2014] 173-83)


To obtain credit all students are expected to read the assigned texts, actively participate in the seminar, with maximum of 3 absences (25%), present one in-class presentation on the week’s primary reading (25­%), and submit a final paper (50%), 3 000 words (1 resubmission possible), with deadline by the end of June (individual extension possible after consultation).

The in-class presentation should last around 30 minutes (with a 15-min Q&A) and should be focused solely on a close reading of the text in question (i.e., no lengthy biographical summaries, no paraphrases of extant critical accounts, etc.). Every presenter should, in reasonable advance (by Friday noon), assign the rest of the class a particular passage from the work-to-be-presented (of approx. 20-30 pages), on which his/her presentation and subsequent discussion should be focused. In response to the presentation, each member of the audience should form a question to the presenter in the Q&A session after each presentation.

Study programmes