The novel has been one of the most important cultural forms of the past two hundred years. Yet in contrast to poetry and drama, the distinctive formal qualities of the novel have been difficult to define. What is a novel? This course will survey the ways that theorists have sought to understand the novel’s development and its unique form. We will begin with critical accounts of the novel’s rise in the eighteenth century. Why did the novel emerge at this moment, and what is its relationship to other literary and non-literary forms, like the romance and the newspaper? We will then think about the form of the novel and how theorists offer various accounts of its formal structure and its relationship to the world it represents. We will conclude the semester by looking to postcolonial approaches to the novel. This course will focus on the British novel, and we will think about these theories in relationship to the Victorian novel, George Eliot’s Middlemarch.
To provide students with a deeper understanding of novelistic form; to introduce students to novel theory and think about its applications to specific texts; to improve students’ reading, writing, analytical, and research skills.
Middlemarch, George Eliot, Penguin Classics
There will be three contact hours per week on Thursdays from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Although each session will include a lecture, much of the class will be run as a discussion seminar with students sharing their thoughts on that week’s assigned reading.
For each class, you will read a portion of the novel Middlemarch (usually around 90 to 100 pages) and one or two excerpts from a theoretical text (or, in some circumstances, excerpts from another novel). This is a class about the novel and novel theory – as with any class about novels, there will be a substantial reading load. You will learn a lot from this class and (I hope) enjoy it, but you should not take this class if you are not willing to read.
Class Participation, Attendance, and Reading Quizzes – 10 percent
Two Short Presentation Papers (posted on the course blog) – 40 percent
Final Paper – 50 percent (including annotated bibliography, rough draft, reverse outline, and final paper)
There will be periodic quizzes to confirm students are reading the assigned pages in Middlemarch. These quizzes are not designed to trick or challenge you. You will score well as long as you have completed the reading in an attentive manner.
Students are required to write and post one blog entry over the course of the semester. At the beginning of the semester, students will sign up for two weeks of their choice and will be responsible for posting their blog entry by Wednesday at noon. The blog entry will be no longer than 600-800 words and should raise a problem or a question about the reading for that week and then seek to answer that question through an analysis of a specific passage (no longer than 100 words) in one of the readings for that week. Students will be graded on the quality of their blog entry and their presentation/discussion of it with their peers in class. Students not presenting are invited to read the response in advance of Tuesday’s class.
Students will write a final paper on Middlemarch that engages with at least two theoretical texts from class and two outside secondary texts. Students will go through an intensive drafting process before submitting their final paper.