History of the Novel
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Division: The New School for Public Engagement
School: School of Undergraduate Studies
Course Number: NLIT 2020
Course Format: Seminar
Permission Required: No
This course is a survey of the novel in English from 1700 to the present day. Once derided as an "incentive to seduction," the novel achieved critical acclaim as well as cultural prominence in the mid-19th century. It remains by far the most popular form of printed literature to this day. Starting from the picaresque novels of the 18th century, we see how the English novel reached its characteristic mode in the 1800s with Austen’s domestic dramas and Dickens’ sentimental realism. We then look to 20th-century writers of the greater English-speaking world, for whom the settled novelistic formulas had grown stale, and consider whether they succeeded merely in putting the genre on life support or revived the form for a new era. Readings include Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe; Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice; Charles Dickens, Great Expectations; Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway; Salman Rushdie, Shame; and Edward P. Jones, The Known World.