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Advanced Topics in Narrative

ENGL 260.301
instructor(s):
TR 1:30-3

Narrative is an inevitable aspect of culture; all societies have stories by which they express or dramatize what they value and what they fear. The three types of narrative in my title represent three dominant modes of narration in cultures that stretch from classical antiquity through the European Middle Ages to the early modern and contemporary western society of which we are a late part. The narrative mode for our modern centuries has been the novel, but the novel is a mode that tends to include and to adapt or transform other kinds of narrative. Many novels have elements of epic and romance in them, and one influential critic described the novel as the epic of a world without God. So we will read representative examples of these three narrative modes in the western tradition, and we will hope to understand how these modes are distinct from one another. Ultimately, our attempt will be to understand the presence of these older and archaic modes in some modern narratives. Readings will include The Odyssey, Genesis and Exodus (the Old Testament), Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Chaucer's The Knight's Tale, Paradise Lost, Don Quixote, Robinson Crusoe, Lord Jim, and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. There will be a couple of short (4-6 page) papers and one long paper (15-20 pages).