English R1B

Reading and Composition: note new topic: Novel/Nation

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
11 Fall 2013 Nadal, Paul
TTh 12:30-2 225 Wheeler

Book List

Achebe, Chinua: Things Fall Apart; Conrad, Joseph: Lord Jim; Ellison, Ralph: The Invisible Man; Rozal, Jose: Noli Me Tangere; Woolf, Virginia: The Voyage Out

Other Readings and Media

A course reader, which will include, among others: selections from G.F.W. Hegel's Lectures on the Philosophy of World History; Benedict Anderson's Imagined Communities; Franco Moretti's The Way of the World; Nancy Armstrong's How Novels Think; Ian Watt's The Rise of the Novel; Frantz Fanon's Black Skin, White Masks; and Ngugi wa Thiong'o's Decolonizing the Mind


This course is a study of the relationship between two modern social forms: the novel and the nation. As historian Benedict Anderson has shown, the rise of the nation has an intimate, if not mutually constitutive, relation to the rise of the novel. Nations take the form of an imagined political community, and novels come to play an important role in the imaginary production of nationhood as such. In this way, novels suggest something of the style in which nations—their past, present, and future—are imagined; how individuals come to understand their relationship to one another; and how, as a collective, they begin to establish a sense of national identity by distinguishing themselves from other cultures and societies.

We will read five novels from different national literatures in order to gain a comparative sense of the formal variations and development of the genre across time and space. The literary texts chosen thematize the link between the novel and the nation in that they are bildungsromans, or novels of education, in which the life of the individual comes to represent, though not entirely reducible to, the life of the nation: its genesis, disintegration, and renewal. As we close read the novels, we will ask: What is it exactly about the novel form that makes it amenable to such national allegories? In imagining a nation’s social and political life, what structures and modes of representation do the novels take, and why? To help us cultivate a method of close reading that attends to the historicity of this particular literary form, we will read various theoretical texts on nationalism alongside literary scholarship on the emergence of the novel and its disseminations.

The purpose of English R1B is to develop advanced college-level reading, writing, and research. We will focus on learning how to do critical textual analysis, how to conceptualize thesis-driven arguments, how to find and incorporate evidence, and how to write clearly and persuasively. Assignments will include a reading journal, three short papers, and a final research paper on two of the novels, which will be developed in draft and final forms.  

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