Description   |   Syllabus

Roguery, Debauchery and War: A Thieves' Journey Through the Picaresque
Bard College
Fall 2007

LIT/HR 325
Tuesdays 9:30 — Olin 102

Mark Danner

The novel is a motley form and in its modern incarnation was spawned in thievery and disrepute: rogues spinning tall tales of roguery; hapless, cunning heroes conniving their way through the most violent, war-torn landscapes as they contrive the most preposterous adventures. We will trace these tales - to which we have given the broad name picaresque - back to their start in the late sixteenth century on the Iberian peninsula, in the hands of the anonymous author of Lazarillo de Tormes. We will follow their spread, in the first great popular publishing phenomenon, northward through Europe. Finally, we will have a look at the picaresque in its modern form, peculiarly adapted as it is to telling the fragmented story of the war-torn twentieth century. Readings will include works by Petronius, Cervantes, Quevedo, Grimmelshausen, Defoe, Celine, Grass, Bellow and Kosinski, among others. 


Requirements. This is an upper-level seminar. By far the most important requirement in this shortened course is to attend every class and to come having done the reading, both required and suggested, and ready to participate fully in the discussion. Suggested reading will be assigned and discussed in class. Apart from that, the course will conclude with a short paper, due on December 11. Be prepared to discuss the subject of your paper the week before, in class.

Suggested and Supplemental Reading Robert Alter, Rogue's Progress: Studies in the Picaresque Novel (Harvard, 1965) Harry Levin, Contexts of Criticism (Harvard, 1957) Stuart Miller, The Picaresque Novel (Case Western, 1967) Ulrich Wicks, Picaresque Narrative, Picaresque Fictions (Greenwood, 1989)

Required Reading List

November 6, 2007 

Lazarillo de Torres, translated by W. S. Merwin (New York Review Books, 2005 [1554])

November 13 

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, "Rinconete and Cortadillo" and "The Dogs' Colloquy," in Exemplary Stories (Penguin, 1972 [1613]); 

Francisco de Quevedo, "The Swindler" in Lazarillo de Tormes and The Swindler: Two Spanish Picaresque Novels (Penguin, 2003 [1626]); 

Thomas Nashe, "The Unfortunate Traveller" in The Unfortunate Traveller and Other Works (Penguin, 1972 [1594])

November 20 

Johann Grimmelshausen, The Adventures of Simplicius Simplicissimus (Dedalus, 1999 [1668]);

Johann Grimmelshausen, The Life of Courage: The Notorious Thief, Whore and Vagabond (Dedalus, 2001 [1670])

November 27

Daniel Defoe, Roxana, the Fortunate Mistress… (Adamant, 2000 [1724])

December 4 

Herman Melville, The Confidence Man: His Masquerade (Norton, 2005 [1857])

December 11 

Louis-Ferdinand Celine, Journey to the End of Night (New Directions, 2006 [1934])

December 18 

Jerzy Kosinski, The Painted Bird (Grove, 1976 [1965])

© 2022 Mark Danner