Politics and the Novel
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Level: Graduate
Division: The New School for Social Research
Department: Liberal Studies
Course Number: GLIB 5135
Course Format: Seminar
Location: NYC campus
Permission Required: No
It’s no secret that novels often deal with political events. In fact, some of the most famous novels—by Henry James, Joseph Conrad, Fyodor Dostoyevski and others—have been described as “political novels,” though writers themselves frequently object to that language, arguing that it is not the business of serious fiction to adopt political positions or to promote an ideology. One of the best writers of political fiction in the country today is Russell Banks, who recently argued that books with a “program,” books designed to sell a political idea or to make things seem more black or white than they are, cannot be good books. An example? Though he approves of the point of view at the heart of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s famous anti-slavery novel, Banks said, “I would not like to have written Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” a notoriously simple-minded and “mawkish” work. This course in “Politics and the Novel” is designed to help us explore what differentiates a fully successful political fiction from a more one-dimensional novel . We will focus on masterworks with a clear interest in political issues. In studying a variety of such novels we will consider such questions as the relation between fact and fiction, the status of ideas in works of fiction and the ways in which writers manage to achieve the variousness and complexity we hope to discover when we read a novel—especially when the novel is invested in political issues. We will also ask what readers are required to know about the places and situations in which political fictions are set. The works to be studied are as follows: --Franz Kafka, IN THE PENAL COLONY --Ingeborg Bachmann, MALINA --Milan Kundera, THE BOOK OF LAUGHTER & FORGETTING --Pat Barker, REGENERATION --Chinua Achebe, THINGS FALL APART --Michael Ondaatje, ANIL’S GHOST --Nadine Gordimer, BURGER’S DAUGHTER --V.S. Naipaul, A BEND IN THE RIVER --J.M. Coetzee, DISGRACE --Claire Messud, THE WOMAN UPSTAIRS --Russell Banks, THE DARLING --Orhan Pamuk, SNOW Students in the course will prepare a substantial term paper and write a final examination on the final scheduled day of the course. The exam will suppose that students have read and mastered at least nine of the dozen texts assigned in the course.
Course Open to: Degree Students with Restrictions


Not open to Undergraduate students.