ENGL 256 - Modern British and Irish Novels
Semester Offered: Spring
Significant twentieth-century novels from Great Britain and Ireland.
Topic for 2017/18b: The Storyteller. In his 1936 essay “The Storyteller,” Walter Benjamin observes that one encounters fewer and fewer people these days who really know how to tell a story. Cut off from a face-to-face community in which stories are passed down, and bereft of experience that can be hammered into wisdom, those who want to relate their ineffable inner life to an audience larger than themselves find solace in writing literature. “The novelist has secluded himself,” says Benjamin. “The birthplace of the novel is the individual in his isolation, the individual who can no longer speak of his concerns in exemplary fashion, who himself lacks counsel and can give none. To write a novel is to take to the extreme that which is incommensurable in the representation of human existence.”
And yet. For all the cloistered textual experiment and overturning of good narrative manners that are signatures of the modern novel, the storyteller remains. Like a guest who overstays his welcome, this gregarious figure repeatedly talks over the scene of writing that conjured him as a parlor trick. This semester we read an array of early-mid twentieth century British and Irish novels that foreground the storyteller: Heart of Darkness, The Good Soldier, The Waves, Good Mornning, Midnight, Malone Dies, and Ulysses, of which its author James Joyce once said, “They are all there, the great talkers, them and the things they forgot.” Heesok Chang.
Prerequisite(s): AP credit or one unit of Freshman English.
Two 75-minute periods.
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