Contemporary American Literature

I.     Course Prefix/Number: EGL 223

       Course Name: Contemporary American Literature

       Credits: 3 (3 lecture; 0 lab)

II.    Prerequisite


III.   Course (Catalog) Description

Course focuses on American literature of recent past. Content includes fiction, poetry, and drama, as well as influential television and film texts in their cultural, social, and historical contexts, as well as terminology and methods of literary analysis and evaluation

IV.   Learning Objectives

The student will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate familiarity with the major trends in contemporary American literature, recognizing the characteristics of major literary and pop cultural forms of the postmodern era.
  2. Analyze prose, poetry, and drama, as well as significant visual narrative forms such as film and television, and communicate understanding through oral and written assignments, demonstrating critical skills and knowledge of conventions used to evaluate literary texts.
  3. Advance interpretations of literary texts in relation to their particular social, political, and historical contexts.
  4. Demonstrate knowledge of how social and cultural factors such as gender, sexuality, race, class, and ethnicity affect the production and consumption of contemporary literature.

V.    Academic Integrity and Student Conduct

Students and employees at Oakton Community College are required to demonstrate academic integrity and follow Oakton's Code of Academic Conduct. This code prohibits:

• cheating,
• plagiarism (turning in work not written by you, or lacking proper citation),
• falsification and fabrication (lying or distorting the truth),
• helping others to cheat,
• unauthorized changes on official documents,
• pretending to be someone else or having someone else pretend to be you,
• making or accepting bribes, special favors, or threats, and
• any other behavior that violates academic integrity.

There are serious consequences to violations of the academic integrity policy. Oakton's policies and procedures provide students a fair hearing if a complaint is made against you. If you are found to have violated the policy, the minimum penalty is failure on the assignment and, a disciplinary record will be established and kept on file in the office of the Vice President for Student Affairs for a period of 3 years.

Please review the Code of Academic Conduct and the Code of Student Conduct, both located online at

VI.   Sequence of Topics

This course can be organized chronologically, emphasizing the transition between modern and postmodern literary production and the emergence of new forms of literature. It can also be organized around the idea of minority voices and literary diversity, or by genre and American literary themes, according to the interests of the instructor. The following sample sequence of topics is derived from The Norton Anthology of American Literature, Vol. E, a text specifically designed for courses covering contemporary American literature.

Week 1: Introduction – What is “Contemporary American Literature”?

Weeks 2-4: Post World War II American Short Fiction

Selections may include texts by Philip Roth, James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, Flannery O’Connor, John Updike, John Cheever, and Ann Beattie.

Weeks 5-6:  Narrative Experimentation

Selections may include texts by Ursula Le Guin, Maxine Hong Kingston, Raymond Carver, Thomas Pynchon, Gloria Anzaldua, and Richard Powers.

Weeks 7-8: Post World War II American Drama

Selections may include texts by Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, Lorraine Hansberry, and Amiri Baraka.

Weeks 9-10: Postmodern Drama

Selections may include texts by David Mamet, Sam Shepard, Suzan-Lori Parks, Tony Kushner, August Wilson, ntozake shange, Adrienne Kennedy, Paula Vogel.

Weeks 11-12: Individual Poets and “Signature” Poems

Selections may include texts by Theodore Roethke, James Merrill, Elizabeth Bishop, Allen Ginsburg, Gwendolyn Brooks, Sylvia Plath, Ann Sexton, Denise Levertov, Audre Lorde.

Weeks 13-14: Poems Exploring the Diversity of Contemporary Life

Selections may include texts by Rita Dove, Billy Collins, Denise Levertov, Joy Harjo, Amiri Baraka, Jorie Graham, Robert Pinsky, Mary Oliver, Michael Harper, Essex Hemphill, Li-Young Lee.

Weeks 15-16: The Contemporary Novel and Film

Novels may include Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Dorothy Allison’s Bastard Out of Carolina, Chuck Palaniuk’s Fight Club, or Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, all of which were also produced as feature films.

VII.  Methods of Instruction

Methods include lecture, discussion, collaborative work, student presentations, and other assignments that foster critical analysis of the subject matter. Guest speakers, films, and other audiovisual materials may be used when appropriate.
Course may be taught as face-to-face, hybrid or online course.

VIII. Course Practices Required

Course may be taught as a face-to-face, hybrid or online course.

Success in this course depends on the student’s ability to read and understand the assigned texts. Additionally, students will discuss and write extensively throughout the course as they analyze primary and secondary source materials. Written work will include midterm and final exams, as well as formal essay assignments totaling 12-15 typed pages. Quizzes, group projects, and oral assignments may also be given.

IX.   Instructional Materials

Note: Current textbook information for each course and section is available on Oakton's Schedule of Classes.

The instructor will choose individual readings or an anthology of contemporary American literature; a suggested anthology is The Norton Anthology of American Literature, Vol. E: Literature Since 1945.

X.    Methods of Evaluating Student Progress

Evaluation methods include grading of student essays, quizzes, midterm and final exams, and class participation.

Required written work:

Two in-class essay exams.

A minimum of three critical essays of at least 750 words each, written outside of class.

XI.   Other Course Information

Attendance policy

For whatever information/procedures the instructor holds the student accountable.

If you have a documented learning, psychological, or physical disability you may be entitled to reasonable academic accommodations or services. To request accommodations or services, contact the Access and Disability Resource Center at the Des Plaines or Skokie campus. All students are expected to fulfill essential course requirements. The College will not waive any essential skill or requirement of a course or degree program.

Oakton Community College is committed to maintaining a campus environment emphasizing the dignity and worth of all members of the community, and complies with all federal and state Title IX requirements.

Resources and support for
  • pregnancy-related and parenting accommodations; and
  • victims of sexual misconduct
can be found at

Resources and support for LGBTQ+ students can be found at

Electronic video and/or audio recording is not permitted during class unless the student obtains written permission from the instructor. In cases where recordings are allowed, such content is restricted to personal use only. Any distribution of such recordings is strictly prohibited. Personal use is defined as use by an individual student for the purpose of studying or completing course assignments.

For students who have been approved for audio and/or video recording of lectures and other classroom activities as a reasonable accommodation by Oakton’s Access Disabilities Resource Center (ADRC), applicable federal law requires instructors to permit those recordings. Such recordings are also limited to personal use. Any distribution of such recordings is strictly prohibited.

Violation of this policy will result in disciplinary action through the Code of Student Conduct.