Fachbereich 7

Sprach- und Literaturwissenschaft


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Naturalism and the Modern American Novel


DozentIn: Jatin Wagle, M.A.

Veranstaltungstyp: Seminar

Ort: 41/B11

Zeiten: Di. 14:00 - 16:00 (wöchentlich)

Beschreibung: In his essay on “The Responsibilities of the Novelist” from 1903, while claiming that the “People have a right to the truth as they have a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” Frank Norris characterized the novel as “an instrument, a tool, a weapon, a vehicle” for disseminating the truth to his own and future times. As narrative fiction became politicized as an instrument of protest and social reform during the Progressive Era, its ability to depict, shape, and even question, the contemporary social reality came to be its primary hallmark. The naturalist novel represents a significant advance in this respect, in that it laid bare in stark, uncompromising manner the anatomy of modern existence as an amoral and all-encompassing social universe.
This is a course in American Studies, which intends to explore such and cognate developments concerning modern narrative fiction in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century in the United States. To be precise, it seeks to examine American naturalism and its impact on the modern American novel around the turn of the century. Apart from its explicitly political orientation, the naturalist novel has been described as a way station from the realist toward the modernist aesthetic in terms of its complication of the narrative form. We would attempt to trace this complex storyline regarding the aesthetics and politics of modern American fiction by reading and discussing selected works by diverse authors, such as, Frank Norris, Charles W. Chesnutt, and Edith Wharton.
We will be discussing the following novels in our course:
Frank Norris, _McTeague_, (1899) [Norton Critical Edition, ISBN: 978-0393970135]
Charles W. Chesnutt, _The Marrow of Tradition_ (1901) [Norton Critical Edition, ISBN: 978-0393934144]
Edith Wharton, _Ethan Frome_ (1911) [Norton Critical Edition, ISBN: 978-0393966350]
In order to take and enjoy this class, you should be willing to read, analyze, and discuss both narrative fiction and historical, analytical, as well as critical texts. Please note that it is expected that students who plan to attend this seminar would have read Norris’ _McTeague_ before our classes begin, since our initial classroom discussions regarding American naturalism will be based on the participants’ reading of this text.
Please note that this course can be taken as either a Literary Studies or a Cultural Studies course. Furthermore, this seminar is recommended for fourth and fifth semester students of English and American Studies, since it builds on students’ sound awareness and understanding of critical and narrative approaches to fiction.
The required readings with a tentative schedule will be made available online on Stud.IP before our first class. Please check the course webpages on Stud.IP regularly for updates, announcements, and changes.
Prerequisites for participation: B1 module
General requirements:
1. Regular attendance and active participation in classroom discussions and group work.
2. All course participants will need to read each of the texts being discussed in the class carefully and prepare their notes or answers diligently in terms of the relevant questions.
3. If you do not engage with the allotted texts and participate actively in classroom discussions, you will be asked to sign out of the course.
Requirements for grade: All of the above, and a well-researched seminar paper (approx. 4000 words). Further instructions in this regard will be provided after the first half of the course is over.


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