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Laughter and Vision
UC Berkeley
Fall 2018

Description



Syllabus

 


Laughter and Vision

Explorations in the Novel of Ideas

English 190/ Fall 2018 / Tuesdays 2-5 / Wheeler 301

Mark Danner

 

In this seminar we will trod fiction's "path not taken" -- the tradition of the novel of ideas that, with the triumph of Realism in the nineteenth century of Dickens and Balzac, became mainstream fiction's dark shadow. Our exploration will stretch from Rabelais, in the sixteenth century, to Thomas Mann, Walker Percy, Milan Kundera and Iris Murdoch in the twentieth, with stops in between for Laurence Sterne, Denis Diderot, Franz Kafka and Marguerite Yourcenar. Throughout we will focus on what this tradition can tell us about what the novel is, what it became -- and what it can be.  

 

 

Class Requirements This seminar will be a mixture of lectures and discussion, backed up by a large amount of reading, some student presentations and some writing. The most important requirements are that students

 

*Attend all class sessions

*Keep up with reading and writing assignments

*Participate in discussions

*Deliver one presentation to the class

*Complete a final research paper

 

A student’s record of attendance and participation in class discussion, together with the quality of his or her writing, will determine the success of our class and contribute the better part of the grade.

 

 

Schedule Note that all classes will meet Tuesdays at 2 pm in Wheeler 301.

 

Reading Our primary reading will draw on a series of novels, classic and contemporary. They are listed below under Required Texts. I strongly urge you to obtain these books in your own copies and in the edition specified, either from local bookstores or from online suppliers, so that we will all be “on the same page” and so that you will be able to highlight and annotate them.

  

Presentations Each student will make one presentation on the theme of the course, in some way tied to the current reading. Use of multimedia and social media during the presentation is strongly encouraged.

 

 

Writing Depending on response to the reading there may be an occasional in-class quiz, which will be short “pop” quizzes presented at the beginning of class.

     Each student will complete a research paper of 12 pages on a theme raised in the course or a text discussed in it or both. A précis – a description of three to four sentences of the final paper -- is due November 13. The final paper is due December 4. (Anyone handing in the paper on November 27 – a week early -- will receive extra credit.)

      To bolster the clarity and vigor of your English prose, I strongly suggest studying two works: George Orwell’s essay, “Politics and the English Language,” which can be readily found on the web, and Strunk and White’s little manual, The Elements of Style.

 

 

 

Office Hours I will count on meeting with each of you individually at least once during the course of the term. We will make these appointments on an ad hoc basis. I am best reached via email, at mark@markdanner.com. My offices are Wheeler 229 and North Gate 32. My writing, speaking and other information can be found at my website, markdanner.com.

 

 

Grading Students will be graded on their preparedness and their participation in class, the strength of their presentations and the quality of their written work, as follows:

 

Attendance            25 percent

Participation          25 percent

Presentation           25 percent

Final Paper            25 percent

 

Required Texts

 

 

Denis Diderot, Jacques the Fatalist (Penguin, 1983 [1796])

 

Franz Kafka, The Castle (Schocken, 1998 [1930])

 

Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being (Harper, 2009 [1984])   

 

Milan Kundera, The Art of the Novel (Harper, 2003 [1986])

 

Thomas Mann, Death in Venice (Norton, 1994 [1912])

 

Iris Murdoch, The Black Prince (Penguin, 2003 [1973])

 

Walker Percy, The Moviegoer (Farrar Straus 2018 [1962])

 

Francois Rabelais, Gargantua and Pantagruel (Penguin, 2006 [1552])

 

Laurence Sterne, Tristram Shandy (Norton, 1980 [1767])

 

Marguerite Yourcenar, Memoirs of Hadrian (Farrar Straus, 2005 [1951])

 

 

 

Tentative Syllabus

 

 

August 28 – Introduction to the Novel’s Other Path. Works of Art in Prose.

                         Franz Kafka, “The Judgment”

                         Jorge Luis Borges, “Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius”

 

September 4 -- Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

                         Milan Kundera, The Art of the Novel (excerpts)

 

September 11 – Thomas Mann, Death in Venice

 

September 18 – No Class

 

September 25 – Francois Rabelais, Gargantua and Pantagruel

 

 

October 2 – Francois Rabelais, Gargantua and Pantagruel

 

October 9 – Laurence Sterne, Tristram Shandy

 

October 16 – Laurence Sterne, Tristram Shandy

 

October 23 – Denis Diderot, Jacques the Fatalist

 

October 30 – Denis Diderot, Jacques the Fatalist

 

 

November 6 – Franz Kafka, The Castle

 

November 13 – Franz Kafka, The Castle

 

November 20 – Marguerite Yourcenar, Memoirs of Hadrian

      Precis of final paper due

       

November 27 – Walker Percy, The Moviegoer

       

 

December 4 – Iris Murdoch, The Black Prince

       Final research paper due, 12 pages

 

 



© 2018 Mark Danner