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Michael Stoff, Director 305 East 23rd St, CLA 2.102, (G3600) Austin, TX 78712-1250 • 512-471-1442

Spring 2006

T C 357 • The Theory of the Novel-W

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
42835 TTh
12:30 PM-2:00 PM
CAL 200

Course Description

"There are books that one has for twenty years without reading them, that one always keeps at hand, that one takes along from city to city, from country to country, carefully packed, even when there is very little room, and perhaps one leafs through them when removing them from a trunk; yet one carefully refrains from reading even a complete sentence. Then after twenty years, there comes a moment when suddenly, as though under a very high compulsion, one cannot help taking in such a book from beginning to end, at one sitting: it is like a revelation. Now one knows why one had made such a fuss about it. It had to be with one for a long time, it had to travel; it had to occupy space; it had to be a burden; and now it has reached the goal of its voyage, now it reveals itself, now it illuminates the twenty bygone years it mutely lived with one. It could not say so much if it had not been there mutely the whole time, and what idiot would dare to assert that the same things had always been in it." --Elias Canetti, The Human Province "I am unpacking my library. Yes, I am. The books are not yet on the shelves, not yet touched by the mild boredom of order&Instead, I must ask you to join me among piles of volumes that are seeing daylight again after years of darkness, so that you may be ready to share with me a bit of mood--it is certainly not an elegiac mood, but rather one of anticipation which these books arouse in a genuine collector. For such a man is speaking to you and on closer scrutiny he proves to be speaking only about himself." --Walter Benjamin, "Unpacking My Library"
In a nutshell, this course will compress Canetti's twenty years of cumulative revelation into one semester as we set about unpacking a select set of novels and theories of the novel in the spirit of Walter Benjamin's book collector. To that extent, this course is as much about Readings as it is about the Novel--each dimension of which we will think about as if we were coming to it for the first time. A brief inventory of topics would include: the experience of reading itself 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, 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, and 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, and reading. Listening to one's own life. Ordinary reading and difficult reading. Is reading different from interpretation?

About the Professor Adam Zachary Newton received his Ph.D. from Harvard University. He works in modern and comparative literatures and Jewish Studies.

Grading Policy

This course contains a substantial writing component. Two papers (5 pp, 10-12 pp); weekly electronic blackboard postings: 60% Mandatory attendance and participation: 40%


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 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. Openings selected from: Sterne, Tristram Shandy; Cervantes, Don Quixote; Kafka, "In the Penal Colony" and "Metamorphosis"; Bunyan, Pilgrim's Progress; Augustine and Rousseau, Confessions; Hardy, Tess of the D'Urbervilles; Proust, In Search of Lost Time; Dostoevsky, The Double; Goethe, Wilhelm Meister and Sorrows of Young Werther; James, In the Cage; Grass, The Tin Drum; Hawthorne, Scarlet Letter; Bronte, Wuthering Heights; Woolf, To the Lighthouse; Mann, Buddenbrooks; Flaubert, Madame Bovary; Bronte, Jane Eyre; Stendhal, Red and Black; and Richardson, Pamela. 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. Selections will be from: Plato, Ion and Phaedrus; Schopenhauer, "On Reading" and "On Thinking for Oneself"; Poulet, "Phenomenology of Reading"; Freud, "Instincts and Their Vicissitudes" and "A Child is Being Beaten"; Benjamin, "Storyteller"; Blanchot, "Reading"; Prosut, "On Reading"; and Bakhtin, "Discourse in the Novel."


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