COMP 283
Great Big Books Fall 2014
Division I Writing Skills
Cross-listed COMP 283 / ENGL 233
This is not the current course catalog

Class Details

Some of the greatest novels are really, really long–so long that they are too seldom read and taught. This course takes time to enjoy the special pleasures of novels of epic scope: the opportunity to immerse oneself in a wide and teeming fictional world; to focus sustained attention on the changeable fortunes of characters and societies over a long span of time; to appreciate the detailed grounding of lives in their social environment and historical moment; to experience the leisurely and urgent rhythms, with their elaborate patterning of build-ups and climaxes, that are possible in such works. We will read but two novels, both preoccupied with the disruption and evolution of lives and loves at moments of historic upheaval: War and Peace (1869), Leo Tolstoy’s epic of the Napoleonic Wars, and Parade’s End (1924-28), Ford Madox Ford’s modernist masterpiece about World War I and its traumatic impact on English social life. Set a century apart, the novels are distinguished by vivid and scrupulous representation of their respective wars, by their shrewd accounts of political and social pressures informing the crises, and by their insight into the struggles of those whose lives are engulfed in global crisis. Tolstoy’s and Ford’s approaches to fictional representation, however, provide intriguing contrasts: one favors the lucidity of classic realism, the other the challenges of modernist innovation; one deploys a single multiplot novel, the other a tetralogy of shorter novels developing a single plot. We will discuss the differing strategies and effects of these two approaches, as well as the more general difficulties of reading and interpreting long fiction.
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 19
Expected: 19
Class#: 1519
Grading: yes pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: regular class participation and four 5-page papers
Prerequisites: a 100-level ENGL course, or a score of 5 on the AP English Literature exam, or a score of 6 or 7 on the Higher Level IB English exam
Enrollment Preferences: first- and second-year students and English majors who have yet to take a Gateway course; then Comparative Literature majors and English majors who have taken a Gateway course
Distributions: Division I Writing Skills
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
COMP 283 Division I ENGL 233 Division I
Attributes: ENGL 200-level Gateway Courses
ENGL Literary Histories B

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