English 412R Syllabus


Studies in Fiction - The Postmodern and Neo-postmodern--

last revised January 8, 2013




I'm Lee Ann Mortensen and I have an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Utah.  Though I have written in a variety of genres, I primarily focus on neo- postmodern, sort of minimalist prose/fiction that focuses on marginalized voices in the West. Click here to read my sometimes upsetting, angry, funny, four-letter-word work (that means it isn't everything for everyone). I've been published in journals like Ploughshares, River Styx and Prism International.

OFFICE: Liberal Arts room CB410d (the metrosexual)--there is an English drop box outside CB410?? if you need to turn in things that you can't E.mail or post to Canvas (which should be nothing).
HOURS: TTH 7:15-8:15PM, in my classroom CB413, or in my office CB410d. Appointments are available the same days. Be sure to also take advantage of consultation days.
PHONE: 801-863-8785
E.MAIL: mortenle@uvu.edu.



last updated 2/26/07
  • Being John Malkovich (magical realism?)
  • The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (technology and memory)
  • Kill Bill Vol. 1 (excess; pastiche)
  • Amelie (magical realism)
  • Run Lola Run (short circuit)
  • The Quick and the Dead (1995 with Sharon Stone; pastiche)
  • Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (excess)
  • Naked Lunch (Burroughs; short circuit, randomness)
  • Network (fabulous 1970's--identity as ratings; simulacrum of TV)
  • The Hours (mild narrative disruptions; time overlaps)
  • Get Shorty (meta)
  • Shrek (intertextualities; pastiche; identity politics)
  • Early Woody Allen movies (What's Up Tiger Lilly? as pastiche/parody, low culture; Sleeper)
  • Peter Sellers 60's movies (What's New Pussycat?  Dr. Strangelove; parody, pastiche, tech worship/critique)
  • David Lynch movies, TV shows (Blue Velvet; randomness, absurdism; Twin Peaks; Mulholand Drive)
  • Stanley Kubrik movies (Dr. Strangelove--funny and scary; Clockwork Orange--tech worship/critique, but not for the faint of heart!!)
  • Pedro Almodovar movies (like the over the top Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown)
  • FASTER, PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL! (1960's killer camp; low culture)
  • Raising Arizona (Coen Brothers; excess)
  • The Royal Tennenbaums (Wes Anderson; short circuit, randomness)
  • Annie Hall (Middle Woody Allen; meta)
  • Road Warrior (Mel Gibson and technology run amuck/tech worship)
  • Life of Brian (Monty Python; pastiche/parody; religion as construct)
  • American Splendor (extreme meta! life and art merge)
  • Garden State (identity, anti-love story)
  • The World According to Garp (magical realism, queer, feminist parody;  Robin Willaims, Glenn Close)
  • Memento (short circuit; what is memory if not language; written on the body, literally)
  • Tom Jones (1963; picaresque epic with an anti-hero; humor, excess, farce, meta)
  • Christopher Guest mockumentaries (Spinal Tap; Best of Show; pastiche/parody)
  • Sealab 2021 (adult pastiche of many things including the original from 1972)
  • Garfield and Friends?
  • Rat Race (and the Barbie Museum)
  • Enchanted
  • Wreck-it Ralph
  • Hoodwinked
  • )


  • Wings of Desire (Wim Wenders; magical realism)
  • Like Water for Chocolate (Mexican, 1993; magical realism)
  • El Mariachi (Mexican, 1993) or any of Richard Rodriguez's with Antonio Banderas (Desperado; Once Upon A Time in Mexico; and Rodriguez did Spy Kids too; excess; hero pastiche?)
  • Men With Guns (John Sayles--Latin American, 1998; postcolonial chaos; decimation of native tribes not unlike in Columbia)
  • Apocalypse Now (postcolonial concerns in Vietnam)
  • Girl Fight (2000; feminist, latina)
  • Jungle Fever (or any of Spike Lee's movies; race identities)
  • Do the Right Thing (Spike Lee--ethnicities collide)
  • Frida (meta, feminism, surreality)
  • Margaret Cho (I'm the One that I Want--"you're not testing Asian"; identity, sexuality deconstructions)
  • Chris Rock (Bring the Pain, 1996)
  • Spanglish (yikes!)
  • Aladdin (Disney; a trilogy?? Are all Arabs evil?)
  • Pocahontas (Disney; are all Native Americans savages?  Are all white colonialists savages?)
  • Bend it Like Beckham (are all Indian cultures retrograde?)
  • Monsoon Wedding (ethnicities collide)
  • My Big Fat Greek Wedding (ethnicities collide, but what clichés!)
  • Far From Heaven (?)
  • White Chicks (yikes!)
  • Real Women Have Curves (identity; feminism)
  • Bride and Prejudice (Bollywood does Jane Austin; Gurinder Chadha)
  • Lone Star (1996, on a small, Texas bordertown; race relations)
  • Amores Perros (deconstruction of previous Mexican cinema expectations)
  • Smoke Signals (based on a Sherman Alexie short story; native identities and families; violation of previous film expectations with "Indians" like Dances with Wolves)
  • Pedro Almadovar movies (Volver--feminist; magically real?)
  • Borat (pastich/parody of a documentary; racisms and bigotry pastiche)
  • A telenovela on Univision??  Cantinflas?  Some Low art?
  • Adaptation (extreme meta; Susan Orlean and her Orchids; has a sort of GGM ouruboros structure where the writing creates the events)
  • Strawberry and Chocolate (1994; 70's Cuban revolution)
  • We're all Stars (1993; Peru and TV)
  • Sarah Silverman's Jesus is Magic (insults/deconstructs everyone from various races and creeds; pastiche; Signifyin(g)?)
  • Collateral Damage (Schwartzenegger--American War Propaganda in Columbia?)
  • Man Facing Southeast (Argentine; Sci fi?  Magically Real?)
  • Some Japanese Anime like Kanon and Da Capo (accepted acts of magic) 


  • My Life in Pink/Ma Vie en Rose (French, 1997; transexual identity)
  • Orlando (British, 1993; not very mocky; magical realism)
  • Fight Club (1999; tech worship, masculinism, capitalism)
  • Billy Elliot (identity, masculinism)
  • The Naked Civil Servant (British, 1975; queer, identity)
  • Hedwig and the Angry Inch ("transexual" identity)
  • Pricilla Queen of the Desert (queer identity; class conflicts; rednecks and transgendered love)
  • Gods and Monsters (James Whale is Frankenstein's gay director)
  • Boys Don't Cry (transexual idendity)
  • Monster (but Charlise Theron is such a "femme"!)
  • Victor/Victoria (Julie Andrews in drag; identity)
  • Birdcage or La Cage Aux Faux (performativity, identity)
  • Tootsie (feminist, performativity, TV)
  • The Little Mermaid (Disney; feminist)
  • Mulan (Disney; feminist; drag)
  • Yentle (yes, Barbara S.; doing drag to get ahead)
  • TO WONG FOO (identity, performativity, cultures collide)
  • Blade Runner (Cyborgs, and love stories; tech worship)
  • M. Butterfly (Jeremy Irons, John Lone; transexuality, drag, performativity)
  • Angels in America (2 parts from HBO; cultures collide; magical realism; queer)
  • Mrs. Doubtfire (drag, performativity)
  • Happy Texas (two cons have to pass as gay)
  • Brokeback Mountain (cultures collide; queer)
  • Queer as Folk (Showtime; meta, camera excess, mythologizing Gay experience)
  • TransAmerica (a transexual father finding his son)


We are about to read, discuss, and write about some of the best works of postmodern and "neo-postmodern" fiction written, works that will surprise us, make us laugh, play with our ears and minds, shock us, and make us question the traditional like realism ("naive realism" as John Barth calls it).  As a writer, and as a human living on the planet earth, I have been greatly affected by these books, and thus I believe all English majors, and all writers, need to read and absorb the beauty, diversity, and chaos of these authors full of style.

In this class we will think about, well, everything, and nothing, and everything. And nothing too.  We will discuss lyricism in prose vs. the prosaic , narrative vs. anti-narrative, postmodern/avant-garde playfullness vs. so-called traditionality, voice and the problems of omniscience (isn't God dead, afterall?), the gender identities and cyber identities (Donna Harroway says we are all cyborgs, after all), high and low cultures (semiotics), the world of TV and TV in the world (Baudrillard's simulacra), Las Vegas as the postmodern epicenter (and the Defense Department with it's bombs), technology vs. capitalism, or technology as capitalism, race vs. ethnicity vs. performativity and colonization, and the way all of this affects literati as well as we creative writers. 

I've organized the class around three sets of fictional dyads.  Two of our selections come from more "hard core" postmodern literature, Donald Barthelme, who in many ways is the "father" of postmodern literature (and often one of the funniest authors I've read), Kurt Vonnegut (the father of a lot of speculative fiction), and numerous selections from the Norton anthology that play with all the postmodern techniques you can imagine.  Our selection from Postcolonial, Post-Historicism, Post-fiction writers includes Art Speigelman's Maus, a tale of the holocaust as graphic novel, and selections from the Norton like the, Borderlands/La Frontera (because borders are often crossed and recrossed).  Both of these authors write lyrically about common people who often encounter the magical, the beautiful, the mundane, and the tragic in every day life.  We will also read two novels from wonderful, postmodern authors who question the stability of gender as well as narrative (some contemporary theorists call these authors "queer" in the broad sense of the word).  The legendary Virginia Woolf's book Orlando is one of the funniest (and most important feminist) novels I've ever read, spanning history, and, magically, gender boundaries, over four hundred years.  Angela Carter's classic, The Bloody Chamber, is baroque maximalism with large quantities of feminist irony, stories that turn fairy tales on their heads.

We will also watch, discuss, and write about films and other pop culture artifacts that complement these dyads, but show us a different, more visual approach to narrative and anti-narrative.  We will also read critical theory handouts that will give us additional lenses through which to comment on each text.


1. Attendance is, of course, essential:  Your voice adds greatly to our community of literary absorbers and critics, and when you are not here and prepared, our class, and our learning, are hugely diminished.  I find that those who miss class a lot don't tend to get what it is we are doing (or undoing), and thus their grades suffer. If you miss more than 5 class periods, you won't pass the class.

2. Arrive on time and prepared for class discussions, tests, and writing assignments.  Participation is essential.   If you are prepared, you should be able to participate. I am not a lecturer.   Your active participation in our discourse community--that means talking, thinking people getting together to discuss interesting and important things--is required. 

3. Writing Assignments must be turned in at the start of class the day they are due or you will lower your course grade. Always keep a photo copy and disk backup for yourself. Always keep your work saved on multiple diskettes.  Use MLA Format to structure your formal essays (ask for a handout on this at the UVU Writing Lab on the second floor of the LEC), or visit them at http://ec.uvu.edu/owl/.  You can also get more MLA information on the web at Diana Hacker's on-line reference guide.

4. Be sure to pay attention to your course Calendar and be responsible for keeping up with the work.  

5. I will be available for consultations with you during hours or by appointment (see my office hours). Please come talk with me about your ideas, questions, interpretations and so on.  The best way to get a hold of me is through E. Mail at mortenle@uvu.edu.

6. Students with Disabilities - If you have any disability which may impair your ability to successfully complete this course, please contact the Accessibility Services Department (WB 146; 863-8747). Academic accommodations are granted for all students who have qualified disabilities. Services are coordinated with the student and instructor by the Accessibility Services Department.

*7. Respect and Maturity are absolutely necessary in college, and especially in an advanced, contemporary fiction and theory course.  I will assume you have learned seriousness and maturity already and treat you accordingly. If you have not had a College Writing I course yet or its equivalent, please see me.

8. NO CELL PHONES or other distracting devices or apps (no ear buds) etc. If I allow you to have laptops, and I tell you put away them away and face me, please close them. People who abuse this rule often end up getting poor grades. It's also distracting to other students. If I see or hear you on your phone, I will ask that you bring it to the front of the classroom.

9. Remember, no children are allowed in classrooms at UVU--see the Wee Care center for day care information.

10. Final exams cannot be taken early.

11. Computers and Canvas are required. There are labs available for everyone on campus: The CSC computer labs (By Cafeteria, Math Lab, and Bookstore?) is open for you to do your work.

12. Writing Center or OWL: (LA 201) Tutors are available to help with grammar and style as well as MLA documentation, organization, details, etc., whatever you ask them to focus on.  You can also use their on-line OWL lab at http://www.uvu.edu/owl.  Lab personnel will not fix or edit every error. They will mark some spelling, grammar or punctuation errors, but they will not correct these errors. They will make general suggestions about how you can learn to fix the problems on your own.



Every Point Counts (subject to change)!

In-Class Assignments:

  • Active participation in our literary discourse community covering daily readings - up to 10 points each week.

  • Possible monthly quizzes (TBA).
  • Possible Midterm and Final exam (oral or written) to help you retain what you've learned (TBA).

Written Assignments:

  • 3 formal essays using a focused literary theory to analyze a specific aspect within each fictional dyad @ 100 points each (300 pts) which will incorporate a film, a reading, and a theory.  A good, original fiction of your own (postmodern in some way) may be substituted for one of these essays--it must include a page of theoretical exposition (I would actually prefer that one of these essays be a creative work, but I will be flexible). You can also do a mixed media, mixed genre piece with collages and short-circuits that somehow deal with the concepts in a concrete way (but this will probably also need a theoretical explanation sheet too).

  • Weekly or bi-weekly 300-600 word reading reactions to the current works.

  • Final Pomo Artifact Oral: A collection of 5 postmodernisms or pomo moments/artifacts from outside the classroom for your final exam (dates are variable, but be looking for good artifacts throughout the semester).

Extra Credit Assignments:

  • If you need some extra credit, I usually let people attend outside lectures, readings, events, performances, museums, displays, exhibits etc. and then write a 600 word reaction. You will, of course, be looking for the postmodern in these things (or the lack thereof--naive realism, anyone?). 

Grade is based on a percentage of the total points. If you have 95% of the points or higher, you get an A. If you have 90% of the points, you get an A-. If you have 87% of the points, you get a B+, and so on. 



Academic Honesty/Plagiarism Statement: Plagiarism, or the use of others’ words or ideas without proper attribution, is an impediment to your education and to the educational mission of Utah Valley State College. Under the policy of the English and Literature Department of uvu, work that has been plagiarized must receive a failing grade. A distinction is made between unintentionally plagiarized work, which must be corrected in order to be considered for a passing grade, and intentional plagiarism, which will be forwarded to the Office of the Dean of Student Life as a disciplinary matter in accordance with uvu’s statement on Student Rights and Responsibilities. Evidence of intentional plagiarism will cause you to fail this course. Please refer to www.uvu.edu/courseinfo/engl/plagiarism_policy.html  to read the department’s full statement on plagiarism, and speak to your instructor if you have any questions about avoiding plagiarism.  Please also be aware that there is a difference between plagiarism and pastiche, a postmodern writing technique, but not everyone knows about this.


  • The "A" writing assignment is organized, very focused, well detailed, uses MLA style perfectly, has few errors, and knows how to use sources smoothly.  Most importantly, it analyzes a focused part of a text deeply and uses literary theory clearly to make interesting points about the text.

  • The "B" writing assignment is also organized and detailed (using MLA style) with few errors, though it may not be as deeply analytical as an A assignment, and it might lapse from focus a little bit (but not too much), and it might not be as interesting.  It may also have a few small clarity issues when discussing or using literary theory.

  • The "C" writing assignment is not horrible, but it may have some bigger organizational problems, or focus problems, or it may not analyze the texts closely enough, or it may not use literary theory clearly enough.  Some good essays with many grammatical errors can sometimes get a C also.

  • The "D" writing assignment is very disorganized and unclear and general and sloppy.

Email Me a quick summary of what you know about postmodernism to mortenle@uvu.edu (that way I'll also have your email for communication).


Copyright © Lee Ann Mortensen January, 2013