English N1A

Narrative Obsessions

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Session Course Areas
2 Summer 2010 Seidel, Matthew
MW 12-2 223 Wheeler

Other Readings and Media

Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness; Fyodor Dostoevsky, Notes from the Underground; F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby; Ian McEwan Enduring Love; and Diana Hacker, Rules for Writers.


The aim of any text is to make a claim on a reader’s time, to arouse in him or her an obsession with its narrative world. One way a text can accomplish this is to depict an obsession of its own: unhealthy, often all-consuming, and always fascinating. Obsession originally referred to “the action of besieging,” and that more menacing version is the kind we’ll be examining in a variety of infatuated characters across a variety of narrative forms. The four main texts (two novellas and two novels) will take us from the Belgian Congo (Heart of Darkness) to Jazz Age New York (The Great Gatsby), and from the streets of St. Petersburg (Notes from the Underground) to the skies of England (Enduring Love).  We’ll also read short stories by Kafka, D.H. Lawrence, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and Nikolai Gogol.

The goal of the course is to read carefully and critically, and to develop a healthy obsession with clear, cogent prose.

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