English 125C

The European Novel: Desire and Form

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Spring 2021 Flynn, Catherine
TTh 9:30-11

Book List

Boccaccio: The Decameron; Calvino, Italo: Invisible Cities; Dostoyevsky, Fyodor: Crime and Punishment; Huysmans, Joris-Karl: A Rebours ; Mann, Thomas: Death in Venice ; Voltaire: Candide


The genre of the novel is named for its capacity for novelty or imaginative invention. This course will examine spectacularly creative instances of fictional prose in the European novel from the fourteenth to the twentieth century. We will examine how these works are inventive both in their construction and in their content. We’ll think about how narrative form is used, often at historical moments of constraint and danger, to create new worlds and ways of being. We’ll examine the conventional understanding that the novel takes its energy from conflict or unsatisfied desire, and consider how appetites of various kinds feature in these novels as organizing forces. How do hunger, lust, material greed, and the desire for order, beauty, and freedom structure these novels? What types of individuals are created through these desires? What kinds of collectives result?

All readings are in English. Reading: 120 pages per week. Written work: short written assignments and quizzes, midterm paper, final paper.

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