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Martin Kevorkian, Chair CAL 226, Mailcode B5000, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-4991

Fall 2006

E 356 • The European Novel

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
35410 TTh
12:30 PM-2:00 PM

Course Description

"Back then, before the Great War, when the incidents reported on these pages took place, it was not yet a matter of indifference whether a person lived or died.  If a life was snuffed out from the host of the living, another life did not instantly replace it and make people forget the deceased.  Instead, a gap remained where he had been, and both the near and distant witnesses of his demise fell silent whenever they saw this gap.  If a fire devoured a house in a row of houses in a street, the charred site remained empty for a long time.  For the bricklayers worked slowly and leisurely, and when the closest neighbors as well as casual passersby looked at the empty lot, they remembered the shape and the walls of the vanished house.  That was how things were back then.  Anything that grew took its time growing, and anything that perished took a long time to be forgotten.  But everything that had once existed left its traces, and people lived on memories just as they now live on the ability to forget quickly and emphatically."

-Joseph Roth, The Radetzky March

"How do we seize the past? How do we seize the foreign past? We read, we learn, we ask, we remember, we are humble; and then a casual detail shifts everything.

-Julian Barnes, Flaubert's Parrot

"Hé, monsieur, un roman est un miroir qui se promêne sur une grande route. Tantót il reflête à vos yeux l'azur des cieux, tantót la fange des bourbiers de la route. Et l'homme qui porte le miroir dans sa hotte sera par vous accusé d'être immoral! Son miroir montre la fange, et vous accusez le miroir! Accusez bien plutót le grand chemin oû est le bourbier, et plus encore l'inspecteur des routes qui laisse l'eau croupir et le bourbier se former."

"A novel is a mirror that strolls along a highway. At one moment it reflects to your vision the azure skies, at another the mire of the puddles at your feet. And the man who carries this mirror in his pack will be accused by you of being immoral! His mirror shows the mire, and you blame the mirror! Rather blame that high road upon which the puddle lies, still more the inspector of roads who allows the water to gather and the puddle to form."

-Stendhal, The Red and the Black, Ch. 40

Each of these passages suggests what we might call the "work" of the novel-- its particular investment in time (passing, past, to come), in perspective (along with a certain prehensile or appropriative property), and last but not least, in the representation of quotidian reality, to use a phrase of Balzac's, ce qui se passe partout (what happens everywhere).

Together, they set the stage for our inquiry in this course.  Through a selection of 19th and 20th works of prose fiction, both canonic and let us, say, yet to be canonized, it will be our task and pleasure to kineticize textual values like  "self-identity and national belonging," "home and homelessness," "high and low," "ideology and form," and of course "character and story," as we articulate the bifold hinging the European-ness of the European Novel to the formal features we call Novelistic.

Grading Policy

One short paper (4-5 pp) due on March 8, and a final paper (8-10pp) due on the last day of class. Both dates are non-negotiable.

First paper 20%
Final paper 40%
Classroom participation 40%


Miguel Cervantes, Don Quixote
Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary
Joseph Roth, The Radetzky March
Bruno Schulz, The Street of Crocodiles
Witold Gombrowicz, Ferdydurke
Primo Levi, The Periodic Table
W. G. Sebald, Austerlitz
Franco Moretti, Atlas of the European Novel
Course packet (secondary essays, plus stories by Isaac Babel, Anton Chekhov, Leonid Andreev, and Thomas Mann)


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