Fall 2008

Big Books

Listed in: First Year Seminar, as FYSE-17

Faculty

Andrew C. Parker (Section 01)

Description

This seminar explores the particular pleasures and interpretive problems of reading and writing about three very long works of fiction-novels so large that any sure grasp of the relation between single part and mammoth whole may threaten to elude author and reader alike. How do we gauge, and thereby engage with, narratives of disproportionate scale and encyclopedic ambition? How do we lose, or find, our place in colossal fictional worlds? As befits its interest in the losing and finding of place, the course introduces students to college-level literary study. Short papers on different aspects of the novels will be assigned most weeks. Discussion in class will focus primarily on the novels themselves, though we will also consider (using our own and others’ essays as examples) ways of writing about our experience as readers. Students will team up in pairs to open the conversation at the start of every class. In its most recent version, the seminar’s three novels included George Eliot’s Middlemarch (1871-72), Robert Musil’s The Man Without Qualities, Volume One (1930-43), and Jay Cantor’s Great Neck (2003). Although the novels for fall 2008 have not yet been selected, they are likely to display similar historical, geographic, and stylistic diversity. Fall semester. Professor Parker.