Comparative Literature :: Nineteenth-Century Realism from A(usten) to Z(ola) :: Spring 2015
Wednesdays 4.00 – 6.50 p.m., Butte Hall 327
One of the many early claims made about literature in Europe is that it represents or should represent the world as we know it. As Marshall Brown points out in a 1981 essay, “elements of realism can undoubtedly be found in the literature of all ages, though it seems undeniable that their frequency and prominence increased in the nineteenth century.” What do we mean by “realism”? What caused this increased prominence in the nineteenth century? How did it register in some of the texts canonically considered realist ones? How did authors at the time view their own representational agendas, and how have we assessed them since?
In this seminar, we’ll read an array of works representative, in different ways, of nineteenth-century European realism, as well as key theoretical and critical pieces. The novels (and novella) we’ll discuss together can also be clustered around some important currents or even central issues within realist narrative: the tension between the free indirect discourse used so often by Flaubert and, to a lesser extent, earlier figures like Austen, and the objective narration often prized by Balzac; the relationship between the urban and the rural, and between the domestic and the foreign, and between the private and public; realist fiction’s particular mode of forging an imagined psychological and material world, of fostering what Roland Barthes calls “the reality effect”; and the relationship between historical context and fictional attempts to reproduce that context. Finally, we’ll look at some late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century reprisals against realism.
Assignments (details in syllabus, unless hyperlinked):
- Posts :: 150 points :: 15%
- Passage intros :: 100 points :: 10%
- Presentation :: 150 points :: 15%
- Short Assignment :: 150 points :: 15%
- Annotated bibliography :: 150 points 15%
- Proposal :: 50 points :: 5%
- Paper :: 250 points :: 25%
All of the course books are available at the campus bookstore, but feel free to buy them used if you can save a few bucks. Please have the edition listed, so that you can fully participate in and follow class lectures and discussion.
- Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility (Oxford) ISBN: 9780199535576
- Honoré de Balzac, Père Goriot (Norton, Burton Raffel translation) ISBN: 9780393971668
- Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary (Oxford, Margaret Mauldon translation) ISBN: 9780199535651
- George Eliot, Middlemarch (Oxford) ISBN: 9780199536757
- Émile Zola, Nana (Penguin, George Holden translation) ISBN: 9780140442632
MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 7th edition ISBN: 1603290249