Novels exist at an angle to social reality, but how can we measure that angle—how can we read what Ato Quayson calls the “calibrations”that join the social and the literary in narrative? This course will examine major theories of narrative and the novel (such as Lukacs, Bakhtin, Barthes, Macherey, Bourdieu, Jameson, Watt, McKeon, Miller, Armstrong, Gillian Brown, Sedgwick, Wai-chee Dimock, Quayson), alongside a range of nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century novels, largely from the United States. We will try to distinguish different ways of conceiving what novels are,: the novel as a formal artifact; as a cultural practice; as an oblique epistemology; as social chronicle; as a history of interiority; and as ideological mimesis. We will test the efficacy of these models by reading novels that were produced in or about the US during the “take-off period” of modernization (1850-1920). Novelists may include De Beaumont, Poe, Melville, Stoddard, Webb, James, Chesnutt, Dreiser, Cather, and some comparative examples.