The Novel

One semester course
Open to 10, 11, 12
Range of difficulty 1-3

1. Rationale

The purpose of the course is a study of one of the major literary forms in detail. The course may be organized in any of the following ways: novels chosen to represent different areas of the world; novels chosen to reflect similar themes; novels chosen to reflect important historical issues; novels chosen to reflect similar characters; novels chosen to reflect comparable narrative style and structure.

The relationship of form and structure in a novel necessarily relates to forms and structures in society; patterns and themes in fiction relate to social patterns and themes. Thus a study of the novel lends itself to clarifying knowledge of self and society and to using and developing critical and creative skills necessary for a person’s social and intellectual development.

2. Topics and Themes Emphasized

• Consideration of a form and structure (plot, character, setting, theme) as specific means to achieving an author’s stated purposes.

• Alienation as a central 20th Century theme

• Individual struggles to make meaning

• Novel as mirror

• Novel as prism

• Novel as microscope

• Conformity vs. Resistance

• The role of fiction

• The power of storytelling

• The role of memory

3. Methods and Sample Assignments

Students are expected to initiate discussion or to make observations based on close reading of the text. Typical teacher-initiated questions include:

• What does the author require of you, the reader?

• How does the writer’s use of language affect your relationship with the characters?

• How does the writer reveal her or his theme?

• What questions are left unanswered by the text?

• What methods does the author use to develop plot?

• What do the characters reveal about human nature? How?

• Are you able to detect any philosophical bias in the novel?

• What of the author’s life is revealed in the novel?

• To what extent do you share the author’s world view?

4. Expectations for Students

Reading: Nightly assignments, number of pages depends on the density of the text.

Writing: Journal writing, short answer quizzes, essay quizzes, short papers, critical essays. Generally, for the critical essays, students are encouraged to develop their own topics.

Listening and speaking: Part of a student’s grade is based on her or his class participation. Students are expected to initiate discussion; panel as well as individual oral presentations are assigned.

5. Reading List and Other Materials

Most of the novels taught will not be from America or England. They will be selected from the following:

Anna Karenina, Tolstoy
The Attack, Khadra
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, Sijie
Blindness, Saramago
Bread and Wine, Silone
Broken April, Kadare
The Clown, Boll
Crime and Punishment, Dostoevsky
Demian, Hesse
Dr. Zhivago, Pasternak
Dreaming in Cuban, Garcia
The English Patient, Ondjaatje
The Fall, Camus
Feast of the Goat, Llosa
Fontamara, Silone
The God of Small Things, Roy
The Journey of Ibn Fatouma, Mahfouz
The Last Man, Camus
Life of Pi, Martel
Mass for Arras, Szczypiorski
One Hundred Years of Solitude, Marquez
The Palace of Dreams, Kadare
Palace Walk, Mahfouz
A Pale View of the Hills, Ishiguro
The Path to the Nest of Spiders, Calvino
Silence, Endo
The Tin Drum, Grass
Waiting for the Barbarians, Coetzee
The Wanderer, Alain-Fournier
You Can’t Get Lost in Capetown, Wicombe

(select scenes)
Bicycle Thieves
Crime and Punishment
(select scenes from Lev Kulidzhanov’s version)
Europa, Europa

The Mission
Open City
Paradise Now
The Red Violin
(select scenes)

6. Bibliography

Aspects of the Novel, E.M. Forster

Sample Assignments

1. Each of the novelists we’ve read this semester has used character as the primary means of exploring aspects of “the human heart in conflict with itself.” Choose any one character from any of the novels we have read and write a critical essay in which you explore the nature of the character’s conflict, the facets of that conflict, the resolution of the conflict (s), and your assessment of the success or failure of the specific conflict (s) as a way of illuminating, exposing, and exploring the human soul and spirit.

2. Often characters appear simply good or bad; upon closer observation, however, it is usually true that the author’s intent may have been to expose the vast grey landscape of humanity. Use two characters from the reading we have done to explore idea. Consider how the character appears initially, and then how, through the course of the novel, you came to see the ambiguities of the character through his or her thoughts, actions, and interactions with other characters.

3. Community or absence of community was a force in all the novels we read. Create a working definition of community and write an essay in which you explore its significance in at least two of the novels we’ve read.

4. Explore the different types of “babbling” in parts I and II of Crime and Punishment.

5. In what way(s) is The Palace of Dreams subversive?

6. Why in Silence does Rodrigues fixate on the image of Christ in Borso San Sepulchro rather than on the previously mentioned images of Christ: Christ as Shepherd, Christ in the eastern Church, and Christ the King?

7. Explore the mother/child relationships in Beloved. You may want to consider the relationship between Sethe and her mother, Ella and her child, etc.

8. How does Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” inform your reading of Saramago’s Blindness?

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