English R1B

Reading and Composition: The Novel as Cultural Form

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
12 Spring 2021 Struhl, Abigail
MWF 2-3

Book List

Bronte, Charlotte: Jane Eyre; Rhys, Jean: Wide Sargasso Sea


In this class, we will read two classic novels: Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre (1847) and Jean Rhys’s postcolonial response to it, Wide Sargasso Sea (1966). As we read, we will consider the relationship between literary form and culture. How do novels reflect, replicate, or challenge structures of power? Are ideologies around class, race, gender, and colonialism built into the form, or can novels also be sites of subversion? What kind of experiences can be represented in a novel? What other kinds of experiences are registered only to be displaced or repressed? We will consider influential accounts of the novel as a bourgeois, colonial, feminized form, as well as complexities that escape such totalizing accounts.

Although two examples are hardly a comprehensive basis to develop a robust theory of “the” novel, our texts will nevertheless afford us ample opportunities to practice the main objectives of this class: interpreting textual evidence, analyzing scholarly arguments, and using research to enter a critical conversation. The materials may be specific to the study of English literature, but the skills requisite to making an evidence-based argument will serve you well in classes and research projects throughout college.

This class will use the assessment method of “contract grading,” which means that if you complete a sequence of required assignments, you are guaranteed a B in the class (to get higher than a B, you can complete additional labor assignments). Please reflect on whether you would be comfortable with this method of assessment before registering for the class; and please do not buy any books until instructed, in case of adjustments prior to the start of the semester.

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