ENGL 341: Modern Fiction

You imagine the carefully-pruned, shaped things that is presented to you is truth. That is just what it isn’t. The truth is improbable, the truth is fantastic; it’s in what you think is a distorting mirror that you see the truth.
–Jean Rhys, Good Morning, Midnight. Toronto: Penguin, 2000. 63.

[The novel] will take the mould of that queer conglomeration of incongruous things—the modern mind. Therefore it will clasp to its breast the precious prerogatives of the democratic art of prose; its freedom, its fearlessness, its flexibility. For prose is so humble that it can go anywhere; no place is too low, too sordid, or too mean for it to enter.
—Virginia Woolf, “The Narrow Bridge of Art” (1927), in The Essays of Virginia Woolf, vol. IV: 1925–1928. Ed. Andrew McNeillie. London: Hogarth Press, 1994. 436.

Lectures: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 11:45–13:00 in SGW H-565

Course description: This course focuses on the innovations and new concerns that mark fiction from the First World War to about 1960. Beginning with Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist—a novel that is paradoxically both recognisably traditional and radically experimental—we will read works spanning the High Modernism of Kafka and Rhys, the proto-postmodernism of Gide, Pirandello and Nabokov and the magical realism of Marquez and Cortázar. We will pay particular attention to modern fiction’s concern with perspective, the figure of the artist and the problem of development, as well as its struggles with realism.

Click these links for course assignments, reading schedule, glossary of narrative terms and course policies & writing resources.


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