The British Novel Course Statement

ENGL 4708 • Spring 2012
Prof M C Morgan
HS 314 • 755 - 2814

Meets T R 2:00 - 3:15 HS 248B
Course url:

Required Texts

Defoe. A Journal of the Plague Year. Norton Critical Edition, 1992. Daniel Defoe (Author), Paula R. Backsheider (Editor, University of Rochester).

Sterne. Tristram Shandy. Norton Critical Edition, 1979. Laurence Sterne (Author), Howard Anderson (Editor, Michigan State University).

Austen. Northanger Abbey. Norton Critical Edition, 2004. Jane Austen (Author), Susan Fraiman (Editor, University of Virginia).

Dickens. Bleak House. Norton Critical Edition, 1977. Charles Dickens (Author), George Ford (Editor, University of Rochester), Sylvere Monod (Editor, University of Paris-Sorbonne).

Woolf. Jacob's Room. Norton Critical Edition, 2007. Virginia Woolf (Author), Suzanne Raitt (Editor, College of William and Mary).

Burgess. A Clockwork Orange. Norton Critical Edition, 2010. Anthony Burgess (Author), Mark Rawlinson (Editor, University of Leicester).


This course is a 15-week study of the British (well, English) novel, from its beginnings in the early 1700s to the near-present. Part of the remit for ENGL 4708 is to teach a critical methodology and technique, so we will focus out study of the novel on narrative technique and narrative discourse.

Reading six novels in 15 weeks means we'll all be reading every weekend, between our meetings on Thursdays and Tuesdays. Read fast, read to be engaged and entertained, read to observe what's happening in the text. I'll give you narrative markers and moves to take note of and mark in your reading, aspects and phenomena to take note of. To start the couse, I'll assign some readings and make some presentations on narrative discourse. And on occasion, I'll assign some critical readings from the Norton Editions or elsewhere. In class, we'll address close readings, critical topics, narrative techniques.

Attendance is required. Participation is expected. Keeping up with the reading is obligatory.

Less lecture - more seminar

To start out the course, one day each week, we'll have a general discussion on the current novel addressing questions you have and matters I bring up. Discussion is the keyword. I will present some observations on narrative discourse and narrative technique early on (terms, methods) but I hope to make my presentations brief and then open the floor to your practice and discussion. My job in these discussions is to keep us on track and focused on the critical perspective we are taking in the course: narrative technique and narrative discourse.

For the other class session each week, one or two of you will be expected to incite and manage the class discussion on the current novel, starting with a critical question that stems from observations on narrative technique in that novel, critical readings in the text, our discussions, or a question or matter you develop or I assign (as a last resort). You must volunteer to run the discussion, and you can volunteer (almost) as much as you like. Everyone should run the discussion at least once over the 15 weeks. You can work alone or with another student. You gain points when you run the discussion. The more points, the better your possibility of a high grade.

We'll discuss whether to do this as one discussion per class session or two. But as the course moves on, I will be presenting less and you will be presenting more.

To prepare for moderating the discussion, write up a concise opening paragraph and a set of notes for us to work with in class, and distribute it to all. No more than a page, single-spaced. In your paragraph, state what you want to discuss as a question, a topic to look at, an issue, a matter of significance ... phrased as a discussable matter. ("What is Defoe trying to say in Journal of the Plague Year?" isn't really discussable. Try "The narrator of Journal doesn't use chapter breaks, or even, as we might expect in a journal, chronological dates. How does he mark time, how does he handle development across time? And how does the lack of chapters and time markers shape or influence the meaning that can be made of the work? Can we really say the narrator 'develops'?" Start, for instance, with an observation about the text, then move to the kind of question that can be supported by the text, that we can help you address.) Sketch in where you would like us to end up. ("We'll be done when we have some textual evidence of the way he handles development, and a few speculations on how that development can be read.") Of course, you will need more detailed notes for yourself, but give us enough of a sketch in your paragraph and notes to direct our attention.

Stay focused on matters of narrative discourse and narrative technique using concepts we're studying. Keep grounding your observations in the text. Focus on how techniques are used to construct meaning.


Points for leading discussions. Points for participating in the discussions. Expect a 7 - 10 page take home final essay assigned the last day of class and due the date of the final meeting.

If needed (that is, if I can't get a handle on what's being learned in the on-going discussion), I may assign a 5 - 7 page take home mid-term essay.
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