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On the Two Ways of Late Century Fiction: Nabokov and Naipaul
UC Berkeley
Spring 2019

Description



Syllabus

On the Two Ways of Late Century Fiction 

Nabokov and Naipaul

English 165/ Tu Thurs 3:30 / Cory 241

Robert Hass & Mark Danner


In the labyrinth of late twentieth century fiction it is possible to discern two intersecting paths with two distinct heritages: the aestheticism and experimentalism of Woolf, Joyce and Proust and the political realism of Conrad. In this class we will delve into the work of two controversial giants of these "two ways": Vladimir Nabokov, the Russian emigre, whose vast body of work is overshadowed in this country by his authorship of the notorious Lolita, about a writer's obsessive rapacious affair with an adolescent girl. And V.S. Naipaul, a Trinidadian-born novelist of Indian descent who explored in fiction and nonfiction set mostly in the so-called Third World the politics of colonialism and post-colonialism. The course will be team-taught with Robert Hass and Mark Danner. Texts will include Nabokov's LolitaThe DefenseThe GiftBend SinisterPale Fire and Speak, Memory, and Naipaul's Miguel Street, A House for Mr. Biswas, In a Free State, A Bend in the River, The Enigma of Arrival, and Guerrillas. There will be a number of short papers and a short-answer final exam.

 

Please Note: Several of these books touch on sensitive topics of sexuality and race. One of the aims of the class is to have an open discussion of these and other issues.

 

 

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

 

*Attend all class sessions

*Keep up with reading and writing assignments

*Participate in discussions

*Complete a number of short papers

*Complete a final exam

 

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 and Thursdays at 3:30 pm in Cory 241.

 

Reading Our primary reading will draw on a series of novels and memoirs by Nabokov and Naipaul. They are listed below under Required Texts. We 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.

 

 

Writing and Final Exam There will be a number of short papers assigned. There will also be a final exam consisting of short-answer questions.

      To bolster the clarity and vigor of your English prose, we 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 Robert Hass has office hours in Wheeler TK at TK to TK on TKday. Mark Danner makes appointments on an ad hoc basis and can be reached at mark@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

Papers                    25 percent

Final Exam            25 percent




Required Texts

 

Vladimir Nabokov, Speak, Memory: An Autobiography Revisited (Vintage, 1989 [1951])

 

Vladimir Nabokov, The Gift (Vintage, 1991 [1938])

 

Vladimir Nabokov, Bend Sinister (Vintage, 1990 [1947])

 

Vladimir Nabokov and Alfred Appel, Jr., The Annotated Lolita (Vintage, 1991 [1955])

 

Vladimir Nabokov, Pale Fire (Vintage, 1989 [1962])

 

Vladimir Nabokov, Transparent Things (Vintage, 1989 [1972])

 

                           

V.S. Naipaul, Miguel Street (Vintage, 2002 [1961])

 

V.S. Naipaul, A House for Mr. Biswas (Vintage, 2001 [1961])

 

V.S. Naipaul, In a Free State (Vintage, 2002 [1971])

 

V.S. Naipaul, A Bend in the River (Vintage, 1989 [1979])

 

V.S. Naipaul, Guerrillas (Vintage, 1990 [1975])

 

V.S. Naipaul, The Enigma of Arrival: A Novel in Five Sections (Vintage, 1988 [1987])

 

V.S. Naipaul, The Writer and the World: Essays (Vintage, 2003)

 



Tentative Syllabus

 

January 22 – Introduction to Course. On The Evolution of Transgression. Reading Novels. On the plan of the course. An experiment in writing about self. Writing assignments.

 

January 24 – Vladimir Nabokov, Speak Memory: An Autobiography Revisited

 

 

January 29 – Vladimir Nabokov, Speak Memory: An Autobiography Revisited

 

January 31 – V.S. Naipaul, Miguel Street

 

 

February 5 – V.S. Naipaul, Miguel Street

 

February 7 – Nabokov, The Gift

 

 

February 12 – Nabokov, The Gift

 

February 14 – Naipaul, A House for Mr. Biswas

 

 

February 19 – Naipaul, A House for Mr. Biswas

 

February 21 – Naipaul, A House for Mr. Biswas

 

 

February 26 – Naipaul, A House for Mr. Biswas

 

February 28 – Nabokov, Bend Sinister

 

 

March 5 – Nabokov, Bend Sinister

 

March 7 – Naipaul, In a Free State

 

 

March 12 – Naipaul, In a Free State

 

March 14 – Nabokov, Lolita

 

 

March 19 – Nabokov, Lolita

 

March 21 – Nabokov, Lolita

 

 

March 26 – 28: Spring Break (No Class)

 

 

April 2 –Naipaul, Guerrillas and “The Killings in Trinidad”

 

April 4 –Nabokov, Pale Fire

 

 

April 9 –Nabokov, Pale Fire

 

April 11 – Nabokov, Pale Fire

 

 

April 16 – Naipaul, A Bend in the River and “A New King for the Congo”

 

April 18 – Naipaul, A Bend in the River

 

 

April 23 -- Naipaul, A Bend in the River

 

April 25 – Nabokov, Transparent Things and “Spring in Fialta”

 

 

April 30 -- Naipaul, The Enigma of Arrival and “Prologue to an Autobiography”

 

May 2 – Naipaul, The Enigma of Arrival and “Prologue to an Autobiography”



 

Annotated Syllabus



January 22 – Introduction to Course. On The Evolution of Transgression. Reading Novels. On the plan of the course. An experiment in writing about self. Writing assignments.

 

January 24 – Vladimir Nabokov, Speak Memory: An Autobiography Revisited

 

 

January 29 – Vladimir Nabokov, Speak Memory: An Autobiography Revisited

 

January 31 – V.S. Naipaul, Miguel Street

 

 

February 5 – V.S. Naipaul, Miguel Street

 

February 7 – Nabokov, The Gift

 

 

February 12 – Nabokov, The Gift

 

February 14 – Naipaul, A House for Mr. Biswas

 

 

February 19 – Naipaul, A House for Mr. Biswas

 

February 21 – Naipaul, A House for Mr. Biswas

 

 

February 26 – Naipaul, A House for Mr. Biswas

 

February 28 – Nabokov, Bend Sinister

 

 

March 5 – Nabokov, Bend Sinister

 

March 7 – Naipaul, In a Free State

 

 

March 12 – Naipaul, In a Free State

 

March 14 – Nabokov, Lolita

 

 

March 19 – Nabokov, Lolita

 

March 21 – Nabokov, Lolita

 

 

March 26 – 28: Spring Break (No Class)

 

 

April 2 –Naipaul, Guerrillas and “The Killings in Trinidad”

 

April 4 –Nabokov, Pale Fire

 

 

April 9 –Nabokov, Pale Fire

 

April 11 – Nabokov, Pale Fire

 

 

April 16 – Naipaul, A Bend in the River and “A New King for the Congo”

 

April 18 – Naipaul, A Bend in the River

 

 

April 23 -- Naipaul, A Bend in the River

 

April 25 – Nabokov, Transparent Things and “Spring in Fialta”

 

 

April 30 -- Naipaul, The Enigma of Arrival and “Prologue to an Autobiography”

 

May 2 – Naipaul, The Enigma of Arrival and “Prologue to an Autobiography”



© 2019 Mark Danner