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
Blindness, Saramago
Bread and Wine, Silone
Fontamara, Silone
Broken April, Kadare
Crime and Punishment, Dostoevsky
Demian, Hesse
Dr. Zhivago, Pasternak
The Fall, Camus
The God of Small Things, Roy
The Journey of Ibn Fatouma, Mahfouz
One Hundred Years of Solitude, Marquez
The Palace of Dreams, Kadare
A Pale View of the Hills, Ishiguro
If on a Winter’s Night A Traveller, Calvino
Silence, Endo
The Tiger’s Wife, Obreht
Never Let me Go, Ishiguro
Kafka on the Shore, Murakami
Grief is the Thing with Feathers, Porter
The Last Brother, Appanah
Borderliners, Höeg
Au Bonheur des Dames, Balzac

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

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

6. Bibliography

Aspects of the Novel, E.M. Forster

Sample Assignments

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

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

3. 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?

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

5. Who and/or what are the antagonists in Anna Karenina? Explain.

6. In the final analysis of Anna Karenina, do you view Anna positively or negatively? Is she a victim of rigid social mores and gender roles? Is she a heroine, albeit flawed, for challenging those rigid expectations? Is she a late 19th-Century feminist? Or, is she an anti-heroine so deeply flawed that you cannot possibly view Anna positively? Is she self-centered, irresponsible, selfish, and “demonic”? Be sure to explain your position thoroughly and to use specific examples.

7. We discussed, at length, how Bread and Wine dramatizes and/or illustrates Pietro Spina’s education. What, in the end, does he learn, and how does he learn these lessons? Who are his teachers? What is the “curriculum”? What are the crucial “ah-ha!” moments in his education? You may also consider exploring what Spina still has to learn or has not learned at the end of the novel.

rev. 8/18

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