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Reading the Novel: History and Theory

ENGL 560.601
W 6:30-9:10

  (English grads may take this course for degree credit with permission of instructor and Grad Chair)

What do novels do to us and for us? Why do we turn pages, hungry for the next event, or toss a book in the corner, dismissing it as hopelessly dull? Have readers been formed by the novels they read? Is this a sociological, historical and/or psychological process? What does it mean to identify with characters? Do novels also read us: our expectations, wishes, hopes and fears? Have novels changed the world they both reflect and attempt to recreate? We will try to answer these questions, beginning with Daniel Defoe's Moll Flanders, one of the earliest English novels (1721), and take a literary expedition through the nineteenth century with Jane Eyre (1847), into the early twentieth-century with Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway (1922) and conclude in the present post-modern moment with Jamaica Kincaid's recent novel Autobiography of My Mother. We will see how the representation of reality changes over nearly three centuries. We will turn to short anthropological, psychoanalytic, literary and historical texts to help us figure out the reasons for the long and mighty reign of the novel in literary history.

fulfills requirements