Course Instructor Days Times Room


This course is dedicated to describing and understanding the most significant literary development of modernity: the novel.  We will approach it as a historical entity that emerged along with a host of other typically "modern" phenomena, and we will ask big questions about the novel's relationship to such broad matters as the division of knowledge, the emergence of the nation-state, the development of the middle class, the separation of public and private, and the transformation of religious beliefs and institutions.  We will also pay some brief attention to the way the novel has been in dialogue with the visual arts, particularly film.

None of these matters will displace the novel itself as our central concern.  We will consider some moments of the novel's development, starting with the emergence of realism in England and then moving both forward and backward along a discontinuous timeline.  Wherever and whenever we find ourselves, we will think about the overall dynamics of the novel as a genre, noting its persistent concern with subjectivity, energetic reinvention of its own form, and peculiarly self-reflexive relationship to its readers.

This is very much a theory course, and theoretical reading will occupy a lot of our attention.  The central text will be Theory of the Novel:  A Historical Approach, a collection of key readings published by Johns Hopkins UP and edited by Michael McKeon.  This text will be supplemented by a few other secondary readings.  We will also, of course, read several novels; each has been chosen both for its particular value and for its usefulness in understanding aspects of the novel as a genre.


*Reading quizzes will be constant, and will cover both the primary and the secondary reading.

*Weekly journals and/or an in-class presentation may also be required.

*Short essays will be assigned during the term.

*Students will be able to choose either to take a final exam or to write a final essay.


Students will be allowed four absences.  Additional absences will damage the final grade; the more absences there are, the worse the damage will be.  If some absences are excused, the damage can be reduced but not erased.  Students should be aware that this policy is never altered, and that it has been the primary factor in drops and failures in previous terms.  Take this into consideration before deciding to register for the course.


The first text is a theory anthology.  Bring it to class every day.  Titles are listed with ISBN numbers--be sure to match these if you buy online.


Michael McKeon, Ed.  Theory of the Novel: A Historical Approach



Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice



Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway



Michael Cunningham, The Hours



Willa Cather, My Ántonia



Leslie Marmon Silko, Ceremony



Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe



Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart



Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote