ENGL 323
A Novel Education Spring 2010
Division I Writing Skills
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Class Details

All novels are conscious of their readers; eighteenth-century novels are obsessed with them. In the century when the genre first flourished, readers are the ultimate objects of novelists’ plots. We are addressed, teased, pleaded with, embarrassed, flattered, made fun of, praised, chided, solicited, warned, reminded, rebuked, asked for sympathy, and-always-closely watched. Eighteenth-century novelists-and their narrators-aggressively educate their readers, not only teaching us how to interpret the novel itself, but also demanding that we self-consciously question the powers of mind and habits of heart we bring to the process of interpreting a book, ourselves, and our world. In this tutorial course, we will explore the narrative and rhetorical strategies two of the century’s greatest novelists use in creating, shaping, and finally educating their readers. We will focus principally on Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones (1749) and Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy (1760-67)–long, brilliantly intricate novels that go about their work in very different ways, but that are equally committed to the project of giving their readers a novel education. We will consider–much more briefly–Fielding’s Joseph Andrews and Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. We will also read criticism by such “reader response” theorists as Stanley Fish and Wolfgang Iser, and–in the individualized setting of a tutorial–students will be asked to develop and articulate their own theories of reading by examining critically the ways in which texts affect and educate them.
Emphasis will be placed on developing skills not only in reading and interpretation, but also in constructing critical arguments and responding to them in written and oral critiques.
The Class: Format: tutorial; students will meet with the instructor in pairs for an hour each week
Limit: 10
Expected: 10
Class#: 3695
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: a 5- to 7-page paper every other week (five in all), and comment on their partners' papers in alternate weeks
Prerequisites: a 100-level English course
Distributions: Division I Writing Skills
Attributes: ENGL Criticism Courses

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