Syllabus and Schedule


English 265-1 Spring 2009

Jeff Gundy
Centennial Hall 318


René Magritte, The Treachery [or Treason] of Images, 1928-9.


 The universe (which others call the library) is composed of an indefinite and perhaps infinite number of hexagonal galleries, with vast air shafts between, surrounded by very low railings. . . . In the hallway there is a mirror which faithfully duplicates all appearances. Men usually infer from this mirror that the Library is not infinite . . . I prefer to dream that its polished surfaces represent and promise the infinite . . .

             -Jorge Luis Borges, “The Library of Babel

Art must recreate, in full consciousness, and by means of signs, the total life of the universe, that is to say, the soul where the varied dream we call the universe is played.
      -Teodor de Wyzewa, 1886

The Obligatory Mission Statement: Shaped by the historic peace church tradition and nourished by a desire for excellence in all phases of its programs, Bluffton University seeks to prepare students of all backgrounds for life as well as vocation, for responsible citizenship, for service to all peoples and, ultimately, for the purposes of God's universal kingdom.


The Obligatory Magically Realist Babe

Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to remember ice. . . .
-Gabriel Garcia Marquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude (1970)


I believe in the future resolution of these two states--outwardly so contradictory--which are dream and reality, into a sort of absolute reality, a surreality.

-Andre Breton, Surrealist Manifesto, 1924

When I woke up, the dinosaur was still there.

-A complete short story by Augusto Monterroso

[Slipstream] simply makes you feel very strange; the way that living in the late twentieth century makes you feel.
     -Bruce Sterling


This course will explore some of the most intriguing and challenging fiction and poetry of the twentieth century: works that expand, broaden and challenge what we think of as "real." The subtitle is "from surrealism to slipstream," but some of our texts are better described as magical realism, some as futurist or expressivist or dada, and some bend even those categories. As we read fiction and poetry by major writers—mostly from Europe and Latin America—we will attempt to understand their structures, themes, and development. But even more important, we will try to experience them as art as fully as we can, to immerse ourselves in writing that evokes the "total life of the universe."


David Young and Keith Hollaman, eds. Magical Realist Fiction.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude.

Isabel Allende, The House of the Spirits.

Jerome Rothenberg and Pierre Joris, eds. Poems for the Millenium.

Franz Kafka: The Complete Stories, ed. Nahum Glazer.

James Patrick Kelly and John Kessel, eds. Feeling Very Strange: The Slipstream Anthology.

Readings will include goodly portions of the three anthologies, sizeable selections from Kafka, and all of One Hundred Years of Solitude and The House of the Spirits. There may be some additional handouts. Other major activities, which must be completed to receive full credit for the course, will include:

1. Day-by-day reading journals/quote-and-question entries/brief essays. These will alternate throughout the course: through the midterm, though, plan to email me either a roughly 300-word journal with your responses, ideas, and questions about the day's readings, or a set of at least three brief quotes/passages from the reading, with a question about each one that you would like to discuss further in class. These must be emailed to me at by 10:00 a.m. each class day. (Please use S&S with the journal number, e.g. “S&S #1” as the subject line.) Use your Bluffton College email address for this activity and all others related to this course. We will often make use of your responses in class, in a variety of ways.

A good journal often begins with subjective, personal response (I liked this, I didn't understand that, etc.) but doesn't end there. Journals are a way of thinking in writing, of using the act of writing as a way of processing what you've experienced in your reading, moving from your first reactions to more developed, organized, thoughtful response. If the reading is confusing or perplexing, as will sometimes occur this semester, try working through that confusion in your journal: ask just what it is creates the uncertainty or confusion, see if you can frame questions you'd like to have answered, then try to pose tentative answers for those questions. If you aren't sure what to write about, pick one small part of the text that particularly struck you, and concentrate on that. You may also compare the material with other texts you've read, discuss associations with your own experience that the text brings back to you, examine questions of style, form, character, plot, imagery, theme . . .

I don't expect well-formed, complete essays in these journals (though later in the term I will assign brief essays instead of journals for some periods). Nor do I expect that everyone will reach similar conclusions or write about the same issues or agree with me. All I ask is that you read carefully and then spend some time thinking just as carefully on the page about what you've read. If you do, you'll be well prepared for class, and we'll have some great discussions.

2. A mid-term exam and a cumulative final.

3. A major project which may be one of two kinds: a. An 8-12 page research project on a topic related to the course. b. A 12-20 creative project--poetry or fiction in a mode related to the course, perhaps modeled after a specific author. Either project may be submitted on paper or as a web page/site--more details will follow. Whichever option you choose, I will ask you to write a proposal (due in mid-February), produce a draft by mid-April for critique and revision, and then revise and resubmit the project near the end of the term. You will also make a brief report on your project to the class.

4. Thorough preparation and active participation in discussion are necessary. Regular attendance is also necessary; absence will cause your grade for the course to be lowered.

Grades will be based on these factors:

Journal/brief essays:                25%

Midterm:                                 20%

Project:                                    20%

Project Presentation                  5%    

Final Exam:                             25%

Attendance/participation:         5%



Like all aspects of life at Bluffton, this course takes place under the Honor System.  We will discuss the particulars of plagiarism along the way.  For now, two reminders: all use of sources must be credited clearly, and research and writing done for this course must not be used for another course without the prior consent of both instructors.  Depending on their severity, violations may result in lowered grades, failing the course, or expulsion.  If you have questions about proper use of sources, I will always be glad to discuss them.


In the spirit of many of the authors we will encounter, and the general postmodern mistrust of notions of linear time, we will refuse to be bound by the constraints of chronology. We will begin with some of the European magical realist stories from Magical Realist Fiction, shift to Latin American magic realism with One Hundred Years of Solitude and The House of the Spirits, and then (after a somewhat early “midterm” exam), head back to Europe and Poems for the Millennium. We will begin with some “forerunners,” take brief glimpses at the futurist and expressivist movements, then move on to dada and surrealism. We will spend a week on Kafka’s stories, and conclude the course with a number of contemporary “slipstream” short stories from Feeling Very Strange and with reports on your projects.

Tentative Schedule

Week 1 1/5


Course introduction

1/7 Magical Realist Fiction


Mann and brief handouts




Week 2 1/12


Rilke, Babel



Schultz, Nabokov




Week 3 1/19


MLK, Jr. Day


Garcia Marquez

100 Years of Solitude



100 Years

Week 4 9/15


100 Years



100 Years



No Class (Reading Day)

Week 5 2/2


In the House of Spirits



In the House of Spirits



In the House of Spirits

Week 6 2/9


In the House of Spirits






(Early) Midterm Exam

Week 7 2/16

Poems for the Millennium

Forerunners (1-30)


Poems for the Millennium

Forerunners (31-49)


First Gallery: Browse 53-105, read esp. Mallarme, Cavafy, Valery, Stein

Week 8 2/23

First Gallery: Browse 106 ff., read esp. Rilke, “Zone,” Loy, DuChamp


Futurism: 193 ff., esp. Marinetti, Mayakovsky


Expressionism and Trakl, 263-65, 281-285

Spring Break

Spring Break

Spring Break

Week 9 3/9







Second Gallery: Yeats, Rilke, Stevens

Week 10 3/16






Week 11 3/23


Negritude 559-570


Third Gallery: Akhmatova, Sachs, Brecht, Ponge




Week 12 3/30





Civic Engagement Day




Week 13 4/6

Feeling Very Strange



Feeling Very Strange



Good Friday

Week 14 4/13


Easter Monday


Feeling Very Strange


Feeling Very Strange

Week 15 4/20

Feeling Very Strange/

Project Reports



Project Reports


Project Reports/

Final Words