Twentieth-Century Fiction I


Week 1

Thursday, September 6.

Introduction. What happened in fiction in English between 1900 and 1950?
Course requirements and grading.
Explanation of the “commonplace book” assignment.
Approaches to the reading in this course.

Week 2

(Sunday, September 9.)

Make a first commonplace book entry by 5 p.m.

Monday, September 10.

“Fiction” and aestheticism.
Henry James, “The Art of Fiction,” in Major Stories & Essays or in Partial Portraits (online text).
Oscar Wilde, “The Decay of Lying,” in Intentions. Online texts: Scan of early edition or (harder to read) text in Literature Online.

Thursday, September 13.

What could it mean to be “modern”?
Woolf, “Modern Fiction” (1919). In The Common Reader (1925). Library reserve or online text.
Edmund Wilson, Axel’s Castle, 3–4, 10–11, 14–21, 211–14, 225–36. Excerpt on course website.
Peter Bürger, "Theory of the Avant-Garde, 47–54. Excerpt on course website.
Pascale Casanova, The World Republic of Letters, 91–96. Excerpt on course website.

Week 3

Monday, September 17.

James: realism or its aftermath.
Henry James, “The Beast in the Jungle” (1903), in Major Stories or in The Better Sort (online text).
Make a second commonplace book entry.

Thursday, September 20.

Conrad: writerly craft, imperial know-how.
Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness (1899). Oxford ed. or in Youth: A Narrative; and Two Other Stories (online text).

Week 4

Monday, September 24.

Stein (1): what makes a modernist text difficult.
Stein, “Melanctha,” in Three Lives (1909). Dover ed. or online text.
Focus on the first half for today.
Ungraded assignment: commonplace to analysis.
Paper 1 topics distributed: James, Conrad, or Stein.

Thursday, September 27.

Stein (2): Race and the dialect of modern writing.
Stein, “Melanctha,” continued.

Week 5

Monday, October 1.

Joyce (1): artistic childhood; colonial childhood.
James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916). Oxford ed.; digital not recommended. Read chapters 1 and 2.

Thursday, October 4.

Joyce (2): orchestrating discourses.
Joyce, Portrait. Read chapters 3 and 4.
Comment on someone else’s commonplace entry.

Week 6

Monday, October 8.

Joyce (3): epiphany and routine.
Joyce, Portrait. Focus on chapter 4.
Paper 1 due.

Thursday, October 11.

Joyce (4): structure and arrested development. Exile?
Joyce, Portrait. Finish the novel.
(Very optional—what Joyce did after Portrait: read chapter 4 of Ulysses. Online texts: a scan of the first ed. or of the earlier magazine publication in the Little Review.)

Week 7

Monday, October 15.

Not modernism: a detective novel.
Dorothy Sayers, Whose Body? (1923). Dover or Harper ed.

Thursday, October 18.

Hemingway: craft, masculinity, the postwar.
Hemingway, “Big Two-Hearted River” and interchapters in In Our Time (1925). Scribner ed.

Week 8

Monday, October 22. Guest lecture: Octavio Gonzalez.

Woolf (1).
Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway (1925). Harcourt ed.
Focus on the first half of the novel, up through the tolling of twelve o’clock (p. 94).

Thursday, October 25.

Woolf (2): sensation, gender, the postwar.
Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway. Read the whole novel.

Week 9

Monday, October 29.

Class cancelled due to campus Weather Alert.
Woolf (3): modernity again. Woolf and Sayers compared.
Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway.
Woolf, “Modern Fiction.” Look at this essay again.
Comment on someone else’s commonplace entry.

Thursday, November 1.

Woolf (4): Modernity again, again.
Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway.
Auerbach, Mimesis, 525–53. Reading on Sakai.
Jennifer Wicke, “Mrs. Dalloway Goes to Market: Woolf, Keynes, and Modern Markets,” Novel 28, no. 1 (Autumn 1994): 5–23 (online via JSTOR; proxy link for off-campus access).
Optional: Woolf, A Room of One’s Own, chap. 1. Reading on Sakai.
Optional: Alex Zwerdling, “Mrs. Dalloway and the Social System,” PMLA 92, no. 1 (January 1977): 69-82 (online via JSTOR; proxy link for off-campus access).

Week 10

Monday, November 5.

Faulkner (1): multiple perspectives and social status.
Faulkner, As I Lay Dying (1930). Vintage ed. (or Norton Critical ed.).
Focus on the first half, through Tull’s chapter beginning “When I told Cora how Darl jumped out of the wagon.”

Thursday, November 8.

Faulkner (2): the grotesque; the significance of regionalism.
Faulkner, As I Lay Dying. Read the whole novel.
Paper 2 topics distributed: Joyce through Hurston.
Commonplacing and attendance amnesty for this week.

Week 11

Monday, November 12.

Anand (1): Indian writing in English; comparative colonial fiction; dialect of modern writing again.
Mulk Raj Anand, Untouchable (1935). Penguin ed. Read the whole novel.

Thursday, November 15.

Anand (2): Consciousness and status revisited; the social problem novel.
Anand, Untouchable, continued.
(Recommended: begin reading Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God.)
Ungraded blogging assignment on style: Faulkner.

Week 12

Monday, November 19.

Hurston (1): Harlem Renaissance (late phase); dialect of modern writing once more.
Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937). HarperCollins ed. Focus on the first five chapters (through p. 50).

Tuesday, November 20 (Thursday classes meet today).

Double feature: Gonzalez and Goldstone.
Hurston (2): Respectability and gender.
Hurston, Their Eyes. Focus on the first half (through p. 99).

(Thursday, November 22. Thanksgiving recess.)

Week 13

Monday, November 26.

Hurston (3): Play, work, love.
Hurston, Their Eyes. The whole novel.
Paper 2 due.

Thursday, November 29.

Barnes (1): Expatriation and the interwar period.
Djuna Barnes, Nightwood (1937). Focus on the first half, through “‘The Squatter’” (3–83).
Ungraded assignment: make a historical line.

Week 14

Monday, December 3.

Barnes (2): Queer narrative, style, community.
Barnes, Nightwood. The whole novel.

Thursday, December 7.

Narayan (1): Indian English writing: another path.
R.K. Narayan, Malgudi Days (selections). Please read in the following order, which tracks the order of publication rather than the order Narayan chose much later for the collection:

  1. “Father’s Help” (66–72) (1942)
  2. “Out of Business” (91–96) (1942)
  3. “Attila” (97–101) (1942)
  4. “The Axe” (102–7) (1942)
  5. “Forty-five a Month” (85–90) (1943)
  6. “Engine Trouble” (78–84) (1943)

You may read in the Penguin or in the text provided in the course website (which, however, does not have “Lawley Road,” which is assigned for next time).

Week 15

Monday, December 10.

Narayan (2): Realism, or, the failed modernist revolution.
Narayan, Malgudi Days (further selections, reading order):

  1. “Iswaran” (53–60) (1944)
  2. “Fellow-Feeling” (40–46) (1944)
  3. “Gateman’s Gift” (26–33) (1944)
  4. “An Astrologer’s Day” (9–13) (1944)
  5. “The Doctor’s Word” (21–25) (1944)
  6. “The Missing Mail” (14–20) (1944)
  7. “Lawley Road” (111–17) (1956)


Thursday, December 13. Reading day; no class.

Optional: review all entries in your commonplace book. Make a historical line linking at least five of those entries.

(December 14–21. Exam period.)

Monday, December 17

Take-home final distributed. Spend no more than six hours.

Thursday, December 20.

Take-home final due by 3 p.m. Submit in person in Murray 213 between 12 p.m. and 3 p.m. Earlier or electronic submission by arrangement only.