Reading Fiction

In this course, we’ll study novels about education, putting pressure on both of those keywords. We may think we know what a “novel” is and what an “education” is for, but the works of fiction that we’ll consider will make these familiar terms strange, and will prompt us to ask: What do novels—often read for entertainment or even escape—have to do with the hard work of being educated? Are novelists good or bad teachers, or both? How have novels sought to educate—even to school— their readers? How, at the same time, have novelists’ goals differed from the aims of other kinds of educators? We’ll read novels written over the course of two centuries (1815-2015) as well as a few short stories that, by serving as counter-examples, will help us to appreciate the specificity of the novel form. The course will provide an introduction to this form’s history from realism to modernism and beyond, and will address the novel’s relationship to various social contexts. Students will also work to sharpen their analytical and argumentative skills through intensive writing and revision. Our author-educators will include Austen, Flaubert, James, Musil, Joyce, Woolf, Spark, Bolaño, De Witt, and Beatty.