English 125C

The European Novel: Lost Illusions

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Spring 2019 Puckett, Kent
Thurs. 2-5 300 Wheeler

Book List

Austen, J.: Pride and Prejudice; Balzac, H.: Lost Illusions; Flaubert, Gustave: Madame Bovary; Goethe, J.W. : Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship ; Kafka, F.: Amerika; Schreiner, O.: The Story of an African Farm; Tolstoy, L.: Anna Karenina


In his 1917 essay, “Science as a Vocation,” the sociologist Max Weber writes, “The fate of our times is characterized by rationalization and intellectualization and, above all, by the ‘disenchantment of the world.’ Precisely the ultimate and most sublime values have retreated from public life either into the transcendental realm of mystic life or into the brotherliness of direct and personal human relations. It is not accidental that our greatest art is intimate and not monumental….”  Since that essay appeared, many writers and critics have argued that the novel is an especially disenchanted literary form, one whose attention to the ordinary, the average, and the everyday distances it from the immediate intensity of lyric or the sublime inevitability of epic.  This sense of the novel as a disenchanted form is, of course, abetted by plots that turn on the many ways in which women and men both cultivate and lose their illusions about the world, by plots that treat growing up as a matter of growing out of bad, wishful, delusive, damaged or Quixotic ideas about how things really are or how they should someday be.  In this course, we’ll look at a range of novels in order to think about what it means in practice to treat the novel as the genre of lost illusions.  Along the way, we’ll think about growing up, falling down, education, aging, good intentions, bad faith, love, sex, family, marriage, adultery, gambling, money, mass culture, the metropolis, religion, socialism, empire, ideology, history, death, dying, and much more. 

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