- Course Number: ENGL 132PR
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- Catalog Course Entry: ENGL 132AA-ZZ
- Quarter: Winter 2021
Philip Roth, who died last year at the age of 86, was a central and controversial figure in American fiction for over fifty years. His comic portrayal of assimilating suburban Jewish Americans in his first book, Goodbye, Columbus, published in 1959 when he was only 26, won him both the National Book Award and the lasting enmity of many Jewish readers and institutions. His notoriety only increased when Portnoy’s Complaint, a landmark of the sexual revolution that was denounced by some as pornographic, became a bestseller in 1969. He subsequently published over twenty novels in a variety of modes, from the satirical to the experimental to the historical. In his American trilogy (1997-2000) the scope of his fiction expanded to produce a portrait of post-war America as riven—from the McCarthy era to the Clinton impeachment—by the conflict between the quest for purity (political, sexual, ethnic and racial) and “life in all its shameless impurity.” This course will survey his career from his earliest short fiction to the end of the last century. Roth delighted in provoking his readers, and students be prepared to be offended by his treatment of women, Jews and people of color.