ENGL 386
Fiction of Beckett and Sebald Spring 2018 Division I; Cross-listed as COMP386 / ENGL386
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This seminar explores the work of two of the most original and influential fiction-writers of the last half of the 20th century, Samuel Beckett and W. G. Sebald. The work of both writers was profoundly influenced by World War II and the Holocaust, and their fiction centers on issues of loss and memory, of decay (of bodies, things, cultures, traditions), of reason and imagination as fragile means of enduring privation. Yet material so sobering and often bleak has rarely been rendered so absorbingly, or with such unorthodox forms of beauty. Their methods for reinventing fiction differ. Beckett increasingly strips his fiction of details of time, place, and even event, and ultimately struggles to free his speaking voice from the burdens of narration itself, the better to focus attention on the simple but logically rigorous, brilliant, often comic effects of his spare language. Sebald, who sometimes called his novels “documentary fiction,” fashions a blend of recollection, fiction, geo-cultural history, and dream-like meditation, focused on the decline of European civilizations; his more chromatic prose, marked by obliquity, melancholy, and dry wit, is filled with curious facts and haunting anecdotes. We will read some of Beckett’s short fiction and his great trilogy, Molloy, Malone Dies, and The Unnamable; Sebald’s major works of fiction, Vertigo, The Emigrants, The Rings of Saturn, and Austerlitz; and a few short stories and novellas by precursors or successors such as Kafka, Borges, and Thomas Bernhard.
The Class: Type: seminar
Limit: 20
Expected: 15
Class#: 3833
Requirements/Evaluation: regular class participation, two 8- to 10-page papers
Extra Info: may not be taken on a pass/fail basis
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 Preference: English majors, Comparative Literature majors
Distributions: Division I;
Attributes: ENGL Literary Histories C

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