Understanding Contemporary American Literature was planned as a series of guides or companions for students as well as good nonacademic readers. The word understanding in the series titles was deliberately chosen. Many willing readers lack an adequate understanding of how contemporary literature works: that is, what the author is attempting to express and the means by which it is conveyed. These volumes provide instruction in how to read certain contemporary writers—identifying and explicating their material, themes, use of language, point of view, structures, symbolism, and responses to experience.
Jeffrey Helterman teaches Old and Middle English at the University of South Carolina. He has written extensively on modern American novelists including Roth, Barth, Pynchon, Willingham, and James Jones.