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Certificate in Writing & Editing

Grand Forks, ND

Engl 320: American Literature after 9/11

Instructor:  Dr. Crystal Alberts
Office Hours: Tues. 12:30-1:30 pm, Thurs. 12:30-2:30 pm, and by appt.
Office:  Merrifield 1D

For today’s generation, it is difficult to think of life before September 11, 2001. The NYC skyline has seemingly always been without the Twin Towers; America has seemingly always been engaged in the Iraq and Afghan Wars; and, flying has seemingly always involved removing your shoes before passing through security. Likewise, it is difficult to remember a life before Facebook, Twitter, the 24/7 news cycle, and the latest viral meme/video.It is also nearly impossible to step back and reflect on how these events, the Internet, and the media have impacted American culture, perhaps because we are so caught up in trying to keep up that we forget to think.

How did America change after September 11th? What do soldiers experience during their tour of duty (or two or three) in Iraq or Afghanistan? What about the millions who lost basically everything in the Great Recession (and still can’t find work)? Why is America obsessed with celebrity culture? What will happen if we continue to live our lives online, more publically than ever? Can we even ask these questions now, as our history is still being written?

There are works of literature published within the last decade that consider the aforementioned questions and discuss what America is like now, post-9/11. In this class, we will read some of them.

Students in this course will be expected to participate regularly in class discussions, keep up with current events (and write a journal about what they read), as well as write a few short, argumentative essays.

Required Texts:

1 Dead in Attic: After Katrina (2007), Chris Rose
Falling Man (2008), Don DeLillo
Freedom (2010), Jonathan Franzen
Super Sad True Love Story (2010), Gary Shteyngart
Fobbit (2012), David Abrams
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (2012), Ben Fountain

Approved Newspapers/Periodicals (others possible with permission):

New York Times (
Wall Street Journal (
Boston Globe (
Washington Post (
Los Angeles Times (
Chicago Tribune (
Minneapolis Star Tribune (
The Guardian (
Grand Forks Herald ( or The Fargo Forum ( (Note: no more than 2 articles per week total from local publications)


Attendance/Participation: 10%
Article Summaries (1-2 paragraphs each): 10%
Newspaper Journal (4-6 articles/week): 15%
Essay 1 (4-6 pages): 20%
Essay 2 (4-6 pages): 20%
Essay 3 (6-8 pages): 25%

Course Requirements:


Attendance, Participation, and Punctuality: Your attendance and participation in class discussion is essential for the success of the class. Please note that 3 or more unexcused absences will negatively affect your grade and that more than 6 unexcused absences constitute grounds for failure of the course. Note that three unexcused tardies is equivalent to an unexcused absence. Also, I will consider a tardiness of more than 20 minutes an absence.If you do miss a class, please see me during my office hours to find out what you missed, including important handouts, changes in the syllabus, etc.

Essay Format: Essays are due at the beginning of the class in which they are due. In other words, essays e-mailed to me later in the day will be considered late. Essays handed in after the class meeting will be deducted a 1/3 of the letter grade for each day that they are late. For instance, if you get a B+ on the essay, but you hand it in on Tuesday instead of Thursday, your grade will drop to a B-. If there is some reason why you are unable to hand in the essay on time, you must discuss this with me before the due date. For this class, all essays must be written using the MLA format. I will distribute handouts from the MLA Handbook to help you with this. In addition, all essays must be typed using Times New Roman 12-point font. Also, please use a one to one and a quarter inch margin and title your essays. Everyone is strongly encouraged to meet with me to discuss your paper topic.

Newspaper Journal: Ideally, you are all reading a newspaper (or two or three) a day already; however, if you aren’t, you will be asked to do so in this class, particularly because this is a class focused on contemporary culture (and how can we discuss it if we’re not aware of what’s going on beyond UND’s campus and Grand Forks?). As such, you will be asked to write short journal entries for 4-6 articles a week from the aforementioned approved list of newspapers/periodicals (although there may be others that could be added to the list with permission). The journal entries must include the name of the newspaper, article title, date, and URL (unless you choose to read in print). For each article, you should summarize the content (i.e., who, what, when, where, why, and how) and, if appropriate, the editorial tone/opinion of the article.After the “facts” are established, you may discuss what you learned from the article, how you see it connecting to class, and/or why you chose to read that article and not another. These entries can be relatively short (as in two paragraphs per article).

S-U Option (aka Pass/Fail): If you wish to take the course under the S-U option, please consult the registrar’s office for UND’s policies available at:

Scholastic Dishonesty:

Plagiarism, or any other form of scholastic dishonesty, is a serious offense and will be subject to official university policy and punitive action as found in the “Code of Student Life.”

Please remember that – even in our mash-up, remix, reboot culture – in this class, you must cite all quotations, summaries, paraphrases and ideas of others. If you have even the slightest doubt about whether or not you should cite a source, err on the side of caution and cite it.

WARNING: I have a ZERO TOLERANCE policy.If there is any academic dishonesty, it can constitute failure for the course, period.

Class Schedule

(the large print giveth, the small print taketh away…schedule subject to change)

Week 1

8/27—Introduction/Syllabus Overview

8/29— Reading, Research, and Writing; “In the Ruins of the Future” [handout] (Available at

Week 2

9/3— Cont. “In the Ruins of the Future” [handout]; Excerpts from WW3 Illustrated [handout]

9/5-- Falling Man, Part One (“Bill Lawton”)
Newspaper Journal Due

Week 3

9/10-- Falling Man, Part Two (“Ernst Hechinger”)

9/12— Falling Man, Part Three (“David Janiak”)
Newspaper Journal Due

Week 4

9/17— Article: “Witnessing Trauma: Falling Man and Performance Art,” John N. Duvall [handout]

9/19-- Article continued
Summary of Article Due
Extra Credit: Newspaper Journal Due

Week 5

9/24— The Reluctant Fundamentalist, ch. 1-7

9/26— Finish The Reluctant Fundamentalist
Newspaper Journal Due

Week 6

10/1— Article: “'The Rules of the Game Have Changed': Mohsin Hamid's The Reluctant Fundamentalist and Post-9/11 Fiction,” Peter Moray [handout]

10/3— Article continued
Summary of Article Due
Extra Credit: Newspaper Journal Due

Week 7

10/8— Fobbit, ch. 1-8

10/10—Fobbit, ch. 9-18
Essay 1 Due

Week 8

10/15— Finish Fobbit

10/17-- Billy Lynn’s Long Half Time Walk, pp. 1-107
Newspaper Journal Due

Week 9

10/22— Billy Lynn’s Long Half Time Walk, pp. 108-216

10/24— Finish Billy Lynn’s Long Half Time Walk
Newspaper Journal Due

Week 10

10/29—“In War Times: Fictionalizing Iraq,” Roger Lockhurst [handout]
Summary of Article Due

10/31— Excerpts from 1 Dead in Attic;
Extra Credit: Newspaper Journal Due

Week 11

11/5— Freedom, pp. 3-124
Newspaper Journal Due

11/7— No Class

Week 12

11/12—Freedom, pp. 125-246

11/14—Freedom, pp. 247-365
Essay 2 Due

Week 13

11/19— Freedom, pp. 366-470

11/21—Finish Freedom
Newspaper Journal Due

Week 14

11/26-- Super Sad True Love Story, pp. 1-75

11/28—No Class Thanksgiving

Week 15

12/3 Super Sad True Love Story, pp. 76-150

12/5— Super Sad True Love Story, pp. 151-232
Newspaper Journal Due

Week 16

12/10-- Finish Super Sad True Love Story

12/12—Last Day of Class

12/17--Final Essay Due by Noon in my mailbox in 110 Merrifield

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