English 660: Don DeLillo
Section A: MWF 12:30 - 1:20 p.m.
120 Denison Hall
 
Professor Phil Nel
Office Phone: 532-2165
Office: 208 Denison Hall
Office Hours: M,W 4:30-5:30 p.m. & by appt.
Virtual Office Hours: philnel@ksu.edu
Website: www.ksu.edu/english/nelp/
  
   
Syllabus last updated on 2 December 2001
    
Paper #1 | Paper #2 (Undergrad) | Paper #2 (Grad) | Schedule: Class Discussion & Book Reviews


Required Texts | Objectives | Grading | Requirements | Schedule of Assignments | Recommended Resources

Required Texts:
Don DeLillo, Americana.
Don DeLillo, End Zone.
Don DeLillo, Great Jones Street.
Don DeLillo, Running Dog.
Don DeLillo, The Names.
Don DeLillo, White Noise.
Don DeLillo, The Day Room.
Don DeLillo, Libra.
Don DeLillo, Mao II.
Don DeLillo, Underworld.
Don DeLillo, The Body Artist.
Class Pack for English 660.
 
Objectives:
        This class will focus on Don DeLillo (b. 1936), best known as the author of White Noise (1985), Libra (1988) and Underworld (1997), and as the recipient of many major literary awards, including the National Book Award, the PEN-Faulkner Award, and, most recently, the Jerusalem Prize and the William Dean Howells Award. We will read most (but not all) of DeLillo's works: 10 of the 12 novels, two of the five plays, four major essays (and some minor ones), and a few of the 14 uncollected short stories. We will also read a brief selection of critical analyses of his work, including Lentricchia, LeClair, Osteen, and (of all people!) George Will. And, to place DeLillo's work in context, we'll: look at selections from Thomas Pynchon, Annie Proulx, Tim O'Brien, James Joyce, Franz Kafka; listen to Bob Dylan; and view Oliver Stone's JFK. The course will explore the development of the political, historical, and philosophical themes DeLillo takes up, including: the appeals and dangers of totalizing systems of belief (paranoia, organized religion, mass movements), the power of language in a media-saturated world, and the role of the artist in developing a critique of the cultural forces in which he or she is enmeshed. Finally, we will address DeLillo's relationship to modernism and postmodernism, examine his canonization (Why he has become one of the most critically-praised writers of his generation? Does he deserve to be?), and consider his place among and influence on contemporary American literature.
 
Grading: Undergraduates | Graduate Students

Undergraduates:  

  Points

Due

Response Papers

  100 (total for all responses)   

In class, day reading is due.

Class Participation

  100

Daily.

Leading Class Discussion   

  100

In class, on day scheduled.

Paper #1

  200

10/1.

Paper #2

  300

Final, 12/5.

Final Exam

  200

In class, 12/12, 4:10-6:00 p.m.

Total

  1000

 

Graduate Students: 

  Points

Due

Response Papers

  100 (total for all responses)   

In class, day reading is due.

Class Participation

  100

Daily.

Leading Class Discussion   

  100

In class, on day scheduled.

Book Review

  100

In class, on day scheduled.

Paper #1

  150

10/1.

Paper #2 (Research Required)

  300

Prospectus, 11/14; Final, 12/5.

Final Exam

  150

In class, 12/12, 4:10-6:00 p.m.

Total

  1000

 
Requirements: Papers | Response Papers | Book Review | Class Participation and Attendance | Leading Class Discussion | Computing | Assignments
 
        Papers:
        You will write two papers, one 5-page paper due on October 1, and one 8-page paper (for undergraduates) or 10-page paper (for graduate students) due on December 5 (graduate students also turn in a prospectus on November 12). Papers must: be typed (preferably word-processed) and double-spaced; include a title, your name, and the date; and have numbered pages that are stapled or paper-clipped together. Late papers will be penalized one grade (e.g., B+ to C+) for each day late.
        Sources: Use the MLA method for documenting sources. And don't plagiarize. When you turn in a paper, you pledge that you have faithfully abided by the guidelines for documenting sources -- most grammar handbooks provide guidelines for documentation. Always remember: you must cite the sources of any ideas that are not your own. If you quote, paraphrase, or use another's ideas, you must give credit to the person whose ideas you are using. If you have any questions, please ask. If you plagiarize, you will automatically fail this course. For more information on Kansas State University's Honor System, please visit <www.ksu.edu/honor>.
 
        Response Papers:
        Roughly once a week, you will hand in a typed, double-spaced response paper of 1 to 2 pages. The response is due in class the day we begin our discussion of the work in question. So, should you decide to turn in a response on Wednesday, August 22, you would hand in a response to Part I of White Noise. No late response papers will be accepted.
        Response papers are intended to help to prepare you for class discussion by providing you with an occasion to reflect upon a major question or question at issue in the work under consideration. For your response paper, begin by selecting one or two lines, a phrase, an image, or even a word from the novel; type your selection out in full at the top of the page, and then write a commentary in which you strive to articulate why the selection strikes you as important or significant to a reading of the work. In other words, use your selected lines or words to explore the work's theme(s) and form. Your response paper may also include your personal response, or perhaps how it relates to other works we have discussed in class. In your response, do not paraphrase the novel; instead, develop a reading of the work.
        Note: You must turn in 11 response papers, but there are more than 11 weeks in the semester. So, there are a few weeks in which you can elect not to turn in a response. If, however, you turn in more than 11, you will receive extra credit for the 1 or 2 extra responses.
 
        Book Review (Graduate Students only):
        Write a review of a work of literary criticism on Don DeLillo, such as you might do for an academic journal. A full description can be found here, and a schedule of due dates can be found here. A model was handed out in class on Friday, August 24.
 
        Class Participation and Attendance:
        Read everything, and come to class prepared to talk about what you have read. On the first day of class discussion for each assignment, you must have finished the reading and be ready to discuss it. By "the reading," I mean all the text assigned for that day. This class will be based on discussion, so class participation is expected, and will count for 10% of your final grade. I reserve the right to assign homework or in-class writing projects that are not listed on the syllabus.
        Class attendance is required. Since the class meets three times a week, you are granted three absences, but more than three will lower your final grade by one grade increment for each absence (e.g., B+ would become B). You cannot earn credit for work missed in class. If you miss class, it is your responsibility to discover what went on that day. "I didn't know because I wasn't in class" is never an acceptable excuse.
 
        Leading Class Discussion:
        Once during the semester, each of you (working in groups) will either initiate our class discussion and sustain it for about 10 minutes. This activity has two goals: to make the classroom more interactive and collaborative, and to encourage you to ask the sort of questions and do the sort of research that can lead you to a reading of one of the novels. (When will you be leading? During the first week of class, each pair signed up for a specific day; you can see that schedule here.)
 
        On the day you lead discussion, you will need to do the following:
 
  1. As a focus for your question or questions, choose a specific passage, image, or a small portion of a scene. Note: while your question can (and should) lead us to other areas in the novel, select a specific place from which to launch our discussion.
  2. Develop discussion questions on some issues or ideas you think we should address. Discussion questions should have more than one possible answer, and should lead to other questions. Note: While your discussion questions should point us towards a reading of the novel, story, or play, your questions can certainly be ones to which you do not yet have complete answers.
  3. Make an outline of your discussion, including the passage(s) you intend to focus on, and the questions you will ask. Your outline needs to reach me 24 hours in advance of class: email it to me or put it in my box in the English Department (in Denison Hall).
 
        Computing -- the Internet and Email:
        The Internet: For your reference, a hyperlinked version of this syllabus is on-line. Go to <www.ksu.edu/english/nelp/> and click on "Courses." I have linked authors' names to relevant webpages, listed web and library resources, and I plan to provide a link from each paper to its paper assignment.
        Email: My email address is philnel@ksu.edu. If you need help establishing an email account and learning to use email, please visit the Office of Telecommunications at 109 East Stadium or <www.telecom.ksu.edu/> to find out what you have to do. Although I do not require you to use email, I encourage you to use email as a way of touching base with me. You can write me with questions, send a thesis statement or outline for an essay, make an appointment to meet me in person, or anything else that could be handled with a quick exchange of messages. I tend to check email several times a day, but please keep in mind that I am not on-line at all times. You can access email at the various computer labs around campus: 21 Nichols Hall, 22-25 Seaton Hall, 1-1A Dickens Hall, and 325 Justin Hall and in some residence halls (visit <www.ksu.edu/housing/complab.html> for more details about resident hall labs).
 

Schedule of Assignments
Subject to Change
 
[CP] = Class Pack. [W] = Web (link provided). [R] = On Reserve (at Hale Library). [F] = Film. [X] = Xerox copy.
Note: "through" means "to the end of" (not "up to").
 
August
M 20
Introduction. DeLillo, "The Rapture of the Athlete Assumed into Heaven" (1990) [X].
 

"It's about fear, death and technology. A comedy, of course."1 -- DeLillo, on White Noise

 

 

W 22

DeLillo, White Noise (1985), part I.

F 24
White Noise, parts II and III through chapter 28; Newsweek article in White Noise: Texts and Contexts.

M 27

White Noise, part III through to end; DeLillo, "Silhouette City" (1988) in Texts and Contexts.

W 29

Thomas Pynchon, Chapters 1 and 2, The Crying of Lot 49 (1966) [CP].

F 31
DeLillo, The Day Room (1986).
 

"[I]t was through Joyce that I learned to see something in language that carried a radiance, something that made me feel the beauty and fervor of words, the sense that a word has a life and a history."2 -- DeLillo

 

 

September

M 3

Labor Day.

W 5

James Joyce, Chapter 4, Ulysses (1922) [CP].

F 7
DeLillo, Americana (1971), Part One.

M 10

Americana, Part Two.

W 12

Americana, Part Three.

F 14
Americana, Part Four; DeLillo, "Notes Toward a Definitive Meditation (By Someone Else) on the Novel 'Americana'" (1972) [CP]. K-State has cancelled classes at this time for those who wish to attend the memorial service in McCain Auditorium at 12 (click for more info.). I will teach class for anyone who wishes to attend; however, I will not take attendance and will fully support those who elect to attend the service. In either case, the syllabus remains unchanged: End Zone for Monday. For a brief reference to DeLillo, see "Struggling to Find Words for a Horror Beyond Words" (New York Times, 13 Sept. 2001)

M 17

DeLillo, End Zone (1972), Part One.

W 19
End Zone, Parts Two and Three.
 

"Those were the days when the enemy was some presence seeping out of the government, and the most paranoid sort of fear was indistinguishable from common sense."3 -- DeLillo, on Great Jones Street

 

 

F 21
Bob Dylan and the Band, The Basement Tapes (1975) <http://www.bobdylan.com/albums/basement.html>.

M 24

DeLillo, Great Jones Street (1973), through Chapter 12.

W 26

Great Jones Street, to end.

F 28

DeLillo, Chapter 10, Ratner's Star (1976) [CP]; Annie Proulx, "The Half-Skinned Steer" (1998) [CP].

Sa 29
Reading by Annie Proulx at All Faiths Chapel, 7:30-8:30 p.m. Click here for more on the Flint Hills Literary Festival.

October

M 1

Tim O'Brien, "The Things They Carried" and "Speaking of Courage" (1990) [CP]. Paper #1 DUE in class.

W 3

DeLillo, Running Dog (1978), part I and part II through Chapter 4.

F 5
Running Dog, to end.
 

"As I was working on Libra, it occurred to me that a lot of tendencies in my first eight novels seemed to be collecting around the dark center of the assassination. So, it's possible I wouldn't have become the writer I am if it weren't for the assassination. [...] [F]rom the initial impact of the visceral shock [of the assassination], I think we've developed a much more deeply unsettled feeling about our grip on reality"4 -- DeLillo

 

 

Su 7

Viewing of Oliver Stone's JFK. 6 p.m., my house.

M 8

Oliver Stone's JFK (1991).

W 10

DeLillo, Libra (1988). Part One, through "20 May."

F 12
Libra, finish Part One.

M 15

Libra, Part Two, through "In New Orleans."

W 17

Libra, to end.

F 19
Fall Break.
M 22
George Will, "A Shallow Look at the Mind of An Assassin" (1988) [CP]; DeLillo, "American Blood" (1983) [CP]; Anthony Lewis, "Warren Commission Finds Oswald Guilty and Says Assassin and Ruby Acted Alone; Rebukes Secret Service, Asks Revamping" (1964) <http://www.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/big/0927.html>.
 

"It is possible that in some curious way people will begin to feel nostalgia for the Cold War, for the enormous biblical power of atomic weapons, but more readily for the sense of measurable certainties and clearly defined confrontation."5 -- DeLillo

 

 

W 24

DeLillo, Underworld (1997), Prologue, Part 1 through Chapter 4.

F 26
Underworld, through Part 2, Chapter 6.

M 29

Underworld, through end of Part 3.

W 31

Underworld, through Part 4, Chapter 3.

November
F 2
Underworld, through Part 5, Chapter 1.

M 5

Underworld, through Part 5, Chapter 5.

W 7

Underworld, to beginning of Part 6.

F 9
Underworld, through Part 6, Chapter 4.

M 12

Underworld, to end; DeLillo, Notes on "The Angel Esmeralda" [CP].

W 14

DeLillo, "The Power of History" (1997), "The River Jordan" (1960), "Take the 'A' Train" (1962), "Human Moments in World War III" (1983) [all CP].

F 16
Underworld and Libra:General Discussion. See Curt Gardner's Underworld pages (at Don DeLillo's America).
 

"The writer is the person who stands outside society, independent of affiliation and independent of influence. The writer is the man or woman who automatically takes a stand against his or her government. [...] American writers ought to stand and live in the margins, and be more dangerous. Writers in repressive societies are considered dangerous. That's why so many of them are in jail."6 -- DeLillo

 

 

M 19

selections from The Names: pp. 1-64, 294-331.

W 21

Thanksgiving Break.

F 23
Thanksgiving Break.

M 26

DeLillo, Mao II (1991), "At Yankee Stadium," "Part One."

W 28

Mao II, "Part Two."

F 30
Mao II, "In Beirut"; Paul Auster and Don DeLillo, "Salman Rushdie Defense Pamphlet" <http://perival.com/delillo/rushdie_defense.html> (1994) [W]; Franz Kafka, "A Hunger Artist" (1924) [CP], DeLillo, "The Artist Naked in a Cage" (1997) [X].

December

M 3

DeLillo, The Body Artist (2001). After you've read the novel, you may enjoy looking at a stretch of Finnish highway (courtesy of the Finnish Road Administration's website). Or not.

W 5

Zbiginew Herbert, "Report from the Besieged City" (1983); DeLillo, "In the Ruins of the Future: Reflections on terror and loss in the shadow of September" (2001) [both X]. Paper #2 DUE in class: Undergrad. paper asst. | Grad. paper asst.

F 7
Conclusion and Review.
W 12
Final Exam, 4:10-6:00 p.m.
You must take the final exam on the day and at the time scheduled.
NO EXCEPTIONS.  MARK YOUR CALENDARS.


Notes:

1. Charles Champlin, "The Heart Is a Lonely Craftsman," Los Angeles Times, 29 July 1984, 7. 2. Adam Begley, "Don DeLillo: The Art of Fiction CXXXV," The Paris Review 35 (Fall 1993), 278. 3. Ibid., 286-87. 4. Anthony DeCurtis, "'An Outsider in This Society': An Interview with Don DeLillo," Introducing Don DeLillo, ed. Frank Lentricchia (Duke UP, 1991), 48. 5. Andrew Billen, "Up from the Underworld," London Evening Standard, 28 Jan. 1998. 6. Ann Arensberg, "Seven Seconds," Vogue, Aug. 1988, 390.

   
Recommended Resources

In the Library

  • Tom LeClair, In the Loop: Don DeLillo and the Systems Novel (1987)
  • Frank Lentricchia (ed.), Introducing Don DeLillo (1991)
  • Douglas Keesey, Don DeLillo (1993)
  • Mark Osteen, American Magic and Dread: Don DeLillo's Dialogue with Culture (2000)
  • Hugh Ruppersburg and Tim Engles (eds.), Critical Essays on Don DeLillo (2000)

On the Web

 

   

Required Texts | Objectives | Grading | Requirements | Schedule of Assignments | Recommended Resources
   
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This page was last updated on 2 December 2001