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Elizabeth Cullingford, Chair CAL 226, Mailcode B5000, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-4991

Spring 2006

E 379M • The Theory of the Novel (HONORS)

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
33825 TTh
12:30 PM-2:00 PM
CAL 200

Course Description

Restricted to students admitted to the English Honors Program.

The required readings for the course will take two forms:

1) a set of opening scenes from a wide range of mostly European and American novels. The search for an intensive method of analysis for novels, or for passages from novels, will be one of our course goals. These two-dozen or so openings will make up the field of textual evidence for this course, and will constitute a large portion of its "theory." From them, in other words, we will construct a "theory of the novel" based upon how they construct, how they thematize, themselves.

2) a set of theoretical essays, philosophical speculations, and historical characterizations by writers like Mikhail Bakhtin, Georgy Lukacs, Walter Benjamin, Alberto Manguel, etc. that, taken together, define a "reading culture" based on literacy and the conditions of silent reading. At the same time we will look at the difficulties that a new "technology of the intellect" such as the novel posed for the middle-class culture within which it appeared, and for which it came to provide a uniquely important self-definition.

A brief inventory of topics: the experience of reading as a basis for the theory of the novel. Interruption, mistake, enchantment. Self estrangement. Memory and Writing as alternative systems of storage within culture. The ordinary and the everyday. Changes of state. The novel's mimesis of borders between sleeping and waking/reading and living. Reading as impersonation or depersonalization. Intimacy, observation, participation. Reciprocal and non-reciprocal intimacy. The letter as model for the novel. Intrusion, observation, the reader as onlooker. The family and middle-class ordinariness. The reader as guest. The social model of question and answer. Conversation and discourse. Sacred text and collaboration vs. secular text and solitary reading. The models of speaking, hearing, reading. Listening to one's own life. Ordinary reading and difficult reading. Is reading different from interpretation?

Grading Policy

Two papers (5 pp, 10-12pp); weekly electronic blackboard postings 60%
Mandatory attendance and participation 40%


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