ENGL 654-01: Philip Roth, Meta/Autofiction

Section Description:

The Jewish-American writer Philip Roth is reckoned as one of the most important novelists in the American post-War literary canon. The historical, comic, pornographic, transgressive, and scatological dimensions of his work are well chronicled. Less has been said, however, about Roth’s enduring commitment to exploring genres of post-modern, metafictional, and autofictional storytelling. Additionally, the advent of the #MeToo movement has called into question Roth’s use of these genres and the alleged inherent misogyny of his art. In this course, we will read some of Roth’s self- reflexive masterpieces such as My Life As a Man, Deception and The Counterlife, among others. Aside from standing as some of the late 20th century’s most intriguing (and commercially popular) forms of narrative experimentation, these works problematize the question of the ontological status of the novel. What is a novel? What is it supposed to “do”? What is its relation to the Truth or truths? What will emerge is a meditation on the role of fiction itself, its curious rivalry with “reality,” it’s strained relation with both progressive and conservative conceptions of proper aesthetic practice, and its brazen insistence that it retains privileged insight into all departments of human existence