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The Theory of the Novel

ENGL 260.301
instructor(s):
MW 2-3:30

In this class we will study several different theories of the novel, relying on our readings of a few representative novels by authors like Richardson, Austen, and Dickens as our common reference point. We will consider, for example, early theories of the novel from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, narratives of the novel's "rise" or origins, the impact of new theories of sexuality upon theories of the novel, genre theory, the category of the modern individual in relation to the novel, debates over realism and representation, questions of authorship, and ideas about the novel as a specifically modern form. While learning about these various theories, we will also ask how they have come to define "the novel" as a genre, and will enquire into the possible problems with and effects of this definition. We will also pay some attention to changes in the print form of the novel, and will ask how a focus on the materiality of the text might offer us a counter-narrative to other theories the novel. Authors include Richardson, Austen, Dickens, Bakhtin, Ortega y Gasset, Watt, Lukacs, McKeon, Jameson, and Armstrong.