Requirements for a class on The Novel

I found an old syllabus from the 80’s, back when I was taking lots of English courses. The scope of the course: “The course, intended to sample and examine the changes in the growth of the novel, will cover the British and American novelists from Fielding to Pynchon. To acquaint ourselves with recent developments in the narrative art, we will include a continental novelist as well.” (So thoughtful of our teacher to include a continental novelist — unusual back then unless it was Tolstoy — and Milan Kundera was quite a good introduction.)

Texts were to be read in this order:

  1. Fielding, Joseph Andrews
  2. Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
  3. Dickens, Hard Times
  4. James, The Portrait of a Lady (some claim James is an American, some claim he is English)
  5. Conrad, Lord Jim
  6. Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
  7. Lawrence, The Rainbow
  8. Faulkner, Light in August
  9. Woolf, To the Lighthouse
  10. Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

I read all of these, plus another novel for my term project paper in one semester. I’ve kept my final exam — two blue books filled with analyses of all of the novels from the course, drawing on articles about the nature of the novel. Great fun: Fielding, Austen, Dickens, Joyce (was he really considered a British novel in the 80s? Really?), and Kundera. I learned more about the creation of large works of fiction from reading James, Woolf, and Faulkner than I ever did from a scholarly article on the subject. And reading DH Lawrence through the lens of my teacher’s vision somewhat ruined The Rainbow for me. Don’t ask what happened in another semester when we studied Thomas Hardy with the same professor. So, any novels or class stories you’d love to share? I still have several of these on the shelves, and feel the need to go pick a few up to see if they’re still as good as I remember them.

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2 Responses to “Requirements for a class on The Novel”


  1. 1 anj August 21, 2013 at 9:11 am

    Hardy and Conrad were ruined for me by the same teacher.

    And I.. well I hate to admit this, but I never liked Woolf. I’ve tried, and it just doesn’t stick.

    • 2 wordtapestry August 21, 2013 at 7:37 pm

      Woolf I could enjoy, just from picking apart how she made things seem like they were purely “stream of consciousness”.


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