May be repeated for credit to a maximum of 28 units provided letter designations are different.
In 1750, Samuel Johnson set out to describe a genre of writing then new that was being eagerly read in the polite society of his day. He described this genre as filled by works which “exhibit life in its true state, diversified only by accidents that daily happen in the world, and influenced by passions and qualities which are really to be found in conversing with mankind.” Johnson, however, was also wary of this new genre, and its ability “to take possession of the memory by a kind of violence, and produce effects almost without the intervention of the will.” Johnson, of course, was talking about the novel. What is the novel? What distinguishes it from other forms of literature? When did it arise and why? And why did Johnson see it as potentially so dangerous?
In an attempt to answer these questions, we will read several English novels considered by many critics to be representative of the genre in its infancy. These include novels and novellas by Daniel Defoe, Aphra Behn, Henry Fielding, Eliza Haywood, Samuel Richardson, and of course Jane Austen. In addition, we will read and discuss several prominent theories about the genre from the twentieth century and contemporary to the rise of the novel. In our discussions and papers, we will evaluate these theories and develop some of our own. We will pay particular attention to issues of gender in early novels and to how the experience of women is represented. By the end of the course, students will have learned in outline several prominent theories of the novel’s rise and developed the tools and resources to engage (i.e. agree and disagree) with these theories critically and thoughtfully.
In addition to completing all the assigned reading and participating in our in class discussions, students will write two longer papers as well as twice weekly responses to that week’s reading. The longer papers will be 1000 to 1500 words in length. Prompts will be provided, though students are also encouraged to develop their own paper topics. Students will also be responsible for writing two responses per week of 250-500 words in length. Students will post these responses online at the course website in Gaucho Space. Although these responses will not be as formal as the papers, I do expect them to engage thoughtfully with the texts and with the issues raised in class. I will provide questions every week to guide student responses and weekly feedback to each student.