Tuesday and Thursday 11:00 – 12:15
Classroom: 303 Curry Bldg.
Selected American and British Novels: Regeneration by Pat Barker, Feast of Love by Charles Baxter, The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides, The Known World by Edward P. Jones, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Hadden, Atonement by Ian McEwan, The Shipping News by Annie Proulx, White Teeth by Zadie Smith, Amy and Isabelle by Elizabeth Strout
Instructor: John Dalton
Office: 124 McIver
Office Phone: 334-5650
UNCG email: email@example.com
Office Hours: Tues. & Thurs 1:30 – 2:30 or by appointment
Perhaps the most common approach to teaching the contemporary novel is to frame the class discussion around important notions of society or identity or significant literary movements. These are time-honored and fruitful ways of looking at literature. Yet quite often English majors read widely and deeply throughout their years of B.A. study without ever looking at fiction from the perspective of how it is written. The UNCG English department has made a conscious decision to have practicing novelists teach The Contemporary Novel (353). The class you are about to join will be taught largely from the perspective of the writer. Why? Because novels are never created by writers musing about how their books will reflect upon established notions of society or identity or literary movements. Instead novels evolve slowly over time and are determined by the writer’s fixation with character, structure, point of view, story, pacing, passage of time. All the richness of a good novel comes about as a direct result of craft. It follows then that any well-rounded student of literature should spend at least one semester thinking about novels on the level of craft.
Such an understanding will broaden your thinking as a critic, as a future English teacher, as an admirer of the contemporary novel. And yet it’s difficult to create a passionate critical argument on such topics as structure or pacing. Therefore within our class discussion and in our written responses to the novels we’ll explore a very simple question that has complex, even profound implications.
Why read novels?
From this question arises a host of issues. In the age of multimedia are novels still relevant? What satisfactions can novels deliver that other art forms can't? What are the limitations of novels? Novels reveal to us the inner lives of characters. Is it in any way valuable to know the inner lives of invented characters? Perhaps the most famous novels in American and British literature (Huck Finn, The Great Gatsby, Sense and Sensibility, Mrs. Dalloway) are all asking the same essentially moral question: How should we live? Can fiction really help us know ourselves better and help us sort through the complicated dilemmas of life?
This course will require regular attendance and participation in class discussion. More than two unexcused absences will affect your end-of-the-semester grade (allowances will be made for medical or family emergencies). You will turn in two papers (5-7 pages typed). I will give you a selection of paper topics to choose from. I may allow you to pursue your own topic, as long as you clear the topic with me in advance. At the end of the semester you will take a final exam. A regular series of unannounced quizzes will be given to make sure students keep up with the course’s demanding reading schedule. There will be no make-up quizzes; your lowest quiz score will be dropped.
Paper 1 20%
Paper 2 25%
Final Exam 20%
A Student turns in two meticulously written, extremely well argued, and complete papers. (The author creates an original and compelling argument and offers astute, notably insightful analysis, as well as terrific supporting examples from the novels.) These papers demonstrate a remarkable effort on the part of the writer. Student misses practically no classes and is an important and conscientious contributor to class discussion. Perfect or near-perfect scores on each reading quiz. Exemplary assignments. Student demonstrates a thorough, far-reaching and highly articulate understanding of the course on the final exam.
B Student turns in two carefully written, well argued, and complete papers. (The author creates a compelling argument and offers insightful analysis, as well as strong examples from the novels.) These papers demonstrate a significant effort on the part of the writer. Student misses only a few classes and is an important and conscientious contributor to class discussion. Impressive scores on each reading quiz. Distinguished assignments. Student demonstrates a comprehensive and articulate understanding of the course on the final exam.
C Student turns in two adequately written yet uneven papers. (The central argument is promising, yet seems underdeveloped; the writing feels rushed) These papers demonstrate only a routine effort on the part of the writer. Student misses more than a few classes and is an infrequent contributor to class discussion. Average scores on each reading quiz. Run-of-the-mill quality assignments. Student demonstrates only a basic understanding of the course on the final exam.
D or F Student is missing one or both papers or turns in such a poor draft that it feels entirely sketchy and rushed throughout. These papers demonstrate only a meager effort on the part of the writer. Student misses numerous classes and is an infrequent contributor to class discussion. Reading quizzes indicate student rarely keeps up with the reading. Poorly executed assignments. Student demonstrates an inadequate understanding of the course on the final exam.
1) Keep up with the reading. Set aside certain hours of certain days for novel reading. As you read, highlight passages that strike you as important to the twin topics of novel craft and thematic relevance.
2) Make sure you have a firm understanding of your paper topic before you begin. If necessary, present an outline of your ideas to the instructor.
3) Attend class. Arrive on time. Join in the discussion.
Aug. 17 introduction
meaning, sense, clarity
the writer / reader relationship
Aug. 19 turn in one-page essay: Why Read Novels?
how novels work:
scene and summation
unraveling point of view
Aug. 24 The Known World pp1-243
Aug. 26 The Known World
Aug. 31 The Known World pp. 244-end
Sept. 2 The Known World
Sept. 7 Amy and Isabelle pp. 1-174
Sept. 9 Amy and Isabelle
Sept. 14 Amy and Isabelle pp.175-end
Sept. 16 Regeneration pp. 1-73
Sept. 21 Regeneration pp. 74-end
Sept 23 Regeneration
Sept. 28 Atonement pp. 1-175
Sept. 30 Atonement pp.176-250
Oct. 5 Atonement pp.251-end
Oct. 7 White Teeth
Oct. 12 no class – fall break
Oct. 14 first paper due
Oct. 19 White Teeth
Oct. 21 White Teeth
Oct. 26 The Virgin Suicides
Oct. 28 The Virgin Suicides
Nov. 2 The Virgin Suicides
Nov. 4 Feast of Love
Nov. 9 Feast of Love
Nov. 11 Feast of Love
Nov. 16 The Shipping News
Nov. 18 The Shipping News
Nov. 23 The Shipping News
Nov. 25 no class- thanksgiving
Nov. 30 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Dec. 2 second paper due
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Dec 14 noon-3:00 Final Exam