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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Jane J Lee
ENGL 242
Seattle Campus

Reading Prose Fiction

Critical interpretation and meaning in works of prose fiction, representing a variety of types and periods.

Class description

Novel Histories: Genre and Genealogy

The novel is a literary form that assumes a comfortable place in the history of writing; the vast domain of fiction itself is often equated with novel genres: romance novels, mystery novels, bestselling novels, classic novels. This course will begin with a set of questions that seeks to explore and complicate our understanding of the novel as the natural form of fiction. The purpose of this inquiry is not to arrive at a definition of the novel, but on the contrary, to demonstrate that it is a form that resists definition at all, even as "fictional;" its themes, politics, techniques, and concerns are always appropriating and being appropriated by historical and cultural pressures.

Fiction is a particularly vexed genre because historically, it was often defined in opposition to "fact" or "history," and many of the modern assumptions we hold about fiction today stem from these eighteenth- and nineteenth- century attitudes. But is fiction particularly opposed to fact or history? In the case of the novel, this popular form came to be explicitly equated with fiction, but we will see that its function was not so easily categorized. Was it aesthetic or didactic? Would it educate or make idle the character of its readers? Would it critique or affirm imperialist practices and domestic policies? Looking critically at the novel now, is it a vehicle of liberal thought or a form of discipline? Or does it undertake all these functions? And how do these issues get taken up in narratives themselves? We will sample several novels, chosen from different types of nineteenth-century fiction that will help us explore these questions: the domestic novel, the industrial novel, sensation novel, and the imperial romance. Examining these varying novelistic genres, we will pay attention to how they each take up and address issues of economy, industry, and labor, race and imperialism, gender and class, trying to track how each genre uses its narrative to fashion or marginalize representations of these prominent social and political concerns. Supplementary material and criticism will also be available in a course pack.

Course Texts: Bronte, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. 1847. (978-0393975420) Dickens, Charles. Hard Times. 1854. (978-0393959000) Collins, Wilkie. The Moonstone. 1868. (978-0140434088) Haggard, Rider H. King Solomon's Mines. 1885. (978-0812966299) Course Reader, available at Ave Copy (4141 University Way)

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Recommended preparation

Because a good portion of your grade will depend on your writing, I highly recommend having taken English 109/110, 111, 121, or 131 prior to taking the class. Also, I expect regular and consistent class attendance. Be certain you are willing and able to make the 10:30 meeting time.

Class assignments and grading

As the course is primarily discussion-based, a significant portion of your grade is based on class participation. Students will also write two short response papers (3-4 pages each), and one longer essay (5-7 pages), with required revisions. The workload may also include a presentation, discussion-leading, quizzes or freewrites, a midterm and a heavy reading schedule.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Jane J Lee
Date: 11/13/2009