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Contemporary Literature

Our faculty in contemporary literature and culture are an appropriately diverse group. Areas of expertise include American literature and culture since 1945; African American literature and rhetoric; twentieth and twenty-first century world literatures in English; Latino/a literature; Asian American literature; American Jewish literature; the history of the avant-garde; poetics; the rhetorical discourses and practices of biotechnology; literature and other arts; post-postmodernism as the logic of “just-in-time” capitalism; queer theory; feminist studies; and disability studies.

Faculty in contemporary literature and culture teach graduate seminars in such subjects as African American literature, experimental poetry, contemporary fiction, science fiction, cultural studies, post-colonial literature, various ethnic literatures, and scientific and medical issues viewed from literary and rhetorical perspectives. We help students understand not only the means of cultural production but also the cultural production of meaning. While we profess no common methodology or object of study, we believe that contemporary studies offers something not available in other periods, the challenge of grasping the contemporaneity of the contemporary, together with the long-term transformations wrought by modernity over the course of the past few centuries.

Recent Grad Courses

  • African American Novel: Sexuality in Black Women’s Novels
  • African American Paraliterature
  • After the New American Poetries
  • American Culture 1945-1975
  • Black Cosmopolitanism
  • Contemporary African American Literature
  • Contemporary African American Playwrights
  • Contemporary Fiction
  • Contemporary Literary Theory
  • Critical Whiteness Studies
  • Disability Studies
  • Experiments in the Fictional Slave Narrative
  • Gothic to Goth
  • Gender in African-American Literature and Theory
  • Latino/a Culture and Literature
  • Modern/Postmodern (and Beyond?)
  • On the PostColony: Readings from Africa and the Caribbean
  • Rhetoric of bell hooks and Cornel West
  • Rhetoric of the Civil Rights Movement
  • Satire and New Black Aesthetics in Contemporary African American Novels
  • Science Fiction and Cybercultures
  • What Was Cultural Studies?
  • Writing Nonfiction (Various Themes: Essayism, Defacement)

People specializing in this area

Tenure-Line Faculty

Kit Hume

Authors I have worked in include Acker, Brautigan, Burroughs, Coover, Gaiman, Kennedy, Powers, Pynchon, Reed, Rushdie, Vizenor, Vonnegut, and Wideman.

Elizabeth Kadetsky

Fiction and nonfiction creative writing workshop; the novel; the short story; the novella; the lyric essay; memoir, the nonfiction novel, writers on writing; authorship, ownership and literary license; the international short story; what is creative nonfiction?

Aldon Lynn Nielsen

especially poetry; literature and the other arts; African American avant gardes; Latin American literature.

Benjamin Schreier

Post-1900 American literature and culture; Jewish American literature and culture; Ethnic literature; Novelty; Cold War and post-Cold War culture; Intellectuals and culture; Narrative nonfiction

Linda Furgerson Selzer

Narrative experimentation,race, and ethnicity. Literature and the digital age.

Susan Merrill Squier, Ph.D.

Currently I am working on comics and medicine.  I teach a graduate seminar on comics, I am co-editing a series at Penn State Press called Graphic Medicine, and I am co-authoring a book entitled Graphic Medicine Manifesto.  I am also editing a special issue of the journal Configurations, of the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts, on "Graphic Medicine."