FT 09-M Wampeters, Foma, and Granfalloons: The Life and Work of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.’s death in 2007 marked the passing of a unique voice in 20th-century American literature. He liked to think of himself as a latter-day Mark Twain. Like Twain, Vonnegut was a humorist, a satirist, and a lecturer, but he became a cultural icon thanks to novels like Cat’s Cradle, Slaughterhouse-Five, and Breakfast of Champions.
Vonnegut was born and raised in Indianapolis, and though he spent his adult life in New York, he always maintained a spiritual connection to his home state. He often set his novels in a mythical Indiana that is both flattering and insulting to current residents. Vonnegut remains a favorite son of Indiana. Civic leaders in the state even designated 2007 “The Year of Vonnegut” and planned a series of lectures and community readings to honor the Indianapolis native. The landmark event was to be a public lecture by Vonnegut himself on April 28; however, Vonnegut died unexpectedly on April 11 as the result of head injuries from a fall. In this course we will discover his life and work by focusing primarily, but not exclusively, on the novels that made his reputation as a writer. We will read most of Vonnegut’s novels as well as a number of his short stories and essays published in book form (Palm Sunday, A Man Without a Country) and in various print media. Finally, we will broaden our focus to include the history of the Vonnegut family in Indianapolis as a means of understanding questions of identity that are evident in Vonnegut’s work.w
Redding, J. Gregory