Fall 2014

Big Books


Alicia J. Mireles Christoff (Section 01)


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 individual 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 a recent version of the course, the seminar’s three novels included Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, Christina Stead’s The Man Who Loved Children, and Samuel K. Delany’s Dhalgren.  Although the novels for fall 2014 have not yet been selected, they are likely to display similar historical, geographic, and stylistic diversity.

Fall semester.  Professor Christoff.

If Overenrolled: Handled by Dean of New Students


2021-22: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2013, Fall 2014