COMP 335 Fall 2012 Manners, Modernity, and the Novel (W)

Cross Listed as ENGL335
The realist novel has a thing for good form: preoccupied with figuring an entire social world in its pages, it also turns a granular-level lens upon the nicer aspects of social life and etiquette. Some literary historians even have pegged the novel's rise to the civilizing process itself. Not just a good read, the novel taught us not to kill each other at the dinner table, and not to use a fish fork to eat our salad. Manners, it turns out, figure some of the most pressing concerns of modernity: the nature of social authority amidst increasingly fluid notions of class, the role of taste in the discourse of aesthetics, and the relation of civilization to its discontents. This course will think about the novel's interest in good form, both within fictional worlds and in the novel's sense of itself as becoming something more refined than mass culture as it enters the 20th century. We will read novels alongside work on style and taste, ranging from etiquette books to philosophical writing on aesthetics, as well as sociological theories of taste as an engine of social distinction. How does something as quaint as good manners becomes a means of registering, and contending with, the vicissitudes of modernity in fiction, from the perfection of social form in Oscar Wilde to the tactful reticence of Henry James? While focused on the 19th century, we also will take up one contemporary heir to the novel of manners, American Psycho, in which the desire to keep up appearances becomes a gothic compulsion. Likely novelists include Jane Austen, William Thackeray, Oscar Wilde, Henry James, Edith Wharton, Bret Easton Ellis. Theorists will include Pierre Bourdieu, Theodor Adorno, and Erving Goffman, among others.
Class Format: tutorial
Requirements/Evaluation: weekly papers and discussion
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Prerequisites: a 100-level English course, or a score of 5 on the Advanced Placement examination in English Literature or a 6 or 7 on the International Baccalaureate
Enrollment Preference: English majors and by interview
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Divisional Attributes: Division I, Writing Intensive
Other Attributes: ENGL Literary Histories B
Enrollment Limit: 10
Expected Enrollment: 10
Class Number: 1611
COMP335-T1(F) TUT Manners, Modernity,& The Novel (W) Division 1: Languages and the ArtsWriting Intensive Gage C. McWeeny
TBA 1611
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