English 203

Graduate Readings: Reading Novels Now

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
6 Spring 2009 Serpell, C. Namwali
Serpell, Namwali
Th 3:30-6:30 305 Wheeler

Other Readings and Media

Novels:  Robbe-Grillet, A. : La Jalousie ; Nabokov, V.: Pale Fire ; Pynchon, T.: The Crying of Lot 49 ; Jones, G. Corregidora ; Calvino, I.: If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler… ; Beckett, S.: Nohow On ; Ellis, B.: American Psycho ; Morrison, T. Jazz ; Eugenides, J.: The Virgin Suicides ; Saramago J.: Blindness ; Sebald, W. G., Austerlitz ; McEwan, I.: Atonement ; Jones, E. P.: The Known World ; Mitchell D.: Cloud Atlas ; Safran Foer, J.: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close ; Diaz., J.: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

Theory:  Barthes, R.: The Pleasure of the Text ; Rosenblatt, L.: The Reader, The Text, The Poem ; Iser, W.: The Act of Reading ; Tompkins, J.: Reader Response Criticism: From Structuralism to Post-Structuralism


This course aims to formulate new phenomenological models of reading contemporary novels.  We will conduct a broad survey of theories of reading, old and new, dabbling along the way in cognitive theories of reading; historical accounts of reading practices; analyses of the ethics of reading; theories of translation; and theories of rereading.  We will then pose some simple questions about turn to reading as it takes place now in the West:  Who reads?  What do we read?  Why do we read?  And most importantly: do we read?  We will examine twenty-first century debates about the status of reading, taking into consideration competing genres (film, blogs, photography); new modes of production and distribution (self-publishing, e-books, books on tape); and new technologies (hypertext, the internet, electronic readers like Sony’s Reader and Amazon’s Kindle).  Throughout the semester, we will read a set of European and American novels (1957-now) alongside the theories of reading we explore. Each student will undertake a final project to construct a new phenomenology of reading, using one or more of these novels to make a case for, to exemplify, or to derive the theory.  Two papers (8-10 pages and 15-20 pages).

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