Saturday, October 11, 2008


[Marcantonio Raimondi: The Dream of Raphael (1508)]

Novels since 1900

This site presents the fossil remnants of a course I taught for one semester at Auckland University in 2008. Having inherited both the booklist and the structure of lectures, I wasn't able to introduce nearly as many innovations as I would have liked.

For instance, the reading list would have been very different if I'd had my way (for further details, see the blogpost here), and there would have been far more interactive tutorials and far fewer formal lectures.

Anyway, I haven't substantially revised it. It is what it is. I did try and give a kind of potted history of twentieth-century culture as an accompaniment to the discussion of the eight novels, so there's probably some material here which may continue to be of general interest. I feel a certain fondness for some of the connections I managed to make in the heat of the moment.

Student responses were, I would have to say, somewhat mixed. Quite a lot of them enjoyed the New Historicist gestures towards more social history and contextualisation of the novels; others would clearly have preferred to stay with the previous emphasis on New Critical close readings.

You can't please all of the people all of the time. As long as you please yourself, though ... I guess that's the main thing.



[Maggie Taylor: Girl with a Bee Dress]


[Leonora Carrington: Labyrinth]

  1. A Portrait of the Artist (1916)

  2. My √Āntonia (1918)

  3. A Passage to India (1924)

  4. The Floating Opera (1957)

  5. The End of the Road (1958)

  6. The Comedians (1966)

  7. Cat’s Eye (1988)

  8. Tracks (1988)

  9. Atonement (2001)


[Rembrandt van Rijn: The Anatomy lecture of Dr Nicolaes Tulp (1632)]


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Tutorial 10

[image source]

Ian McEwan

The 21st Century

We'll be talking some more about the exam, about the different types of "reading" available to us, "dirty" (i.e. historicist) or "clean" (i.e. formalist), and the ways in which they can be related to various different books in the course.

I'll also be speculating, in the last lecture of all, on what new directions the novel is pursuing now, in the first decade of the twenty-first century.

Tutorial 9

Two suggestive quotes from Louise Erdrich's travel book Books and Islands in Ojibwe Country (Washington, DC: National Geographic Society, 2003):

Very traditional people are very careful about attribution. When a story begins there is a prefacing history of that story's origin that is as complicated as the Modern Language Association guidelines to forming footnotes. [p.39]


... Would it be better to confront an ill-motived intruder who was well read, or one indifferent to literature? [p.94]

Tutorial 8

[image source]

Margaret Atwood

Negotiating with the Dead:
Canada and the Malevolent North

Bully or bullied? Which were you at school?

Artist or subject matter? Where do your talents lie?

Tutorial 7

[image source]

Graham Greene

Colonialism & Catholicism

I think the map is handy to give you some sense of the territory - the ubiquitous closeness of the Dominican Republic, the nearness of Cuba.

This tutorial will be another chance to debate the many questions raised by Greene's intriguing, multifaceted novel. I'll be continuing that process in today's lecture, too.

Tutorial 6

[image source]

John Barth: The End of the Road


Remember that Assignment 2 is due in this Friday.

In the tutorial we'll be discussing the concept of character in fiction as it relates to Barth's The End of the Road.

Existentialism is a way of thinking associated with the dilemma of how to achieve self-justification and authenticity in an essentially arbitrary cosmos.

On the one hand, this might be said to cry out for parody.

On the other hand, what other theory of human behaviour do we have to replace it?

Tutorial 5

[image source]

John Barth: The Floating Opera

Assignment 2

The essay topics for Assignment two will be available online, at the lecture, and in the English Department assignment cubbyholes (just along from the secretaries' office), by Thursday 28th August.

In this week's tutorials we'll be discussing the fine art of writing a review (At least one of the prescribed topics for each novel will invite you to compose a book-review for a specific context).

We'll also talk about the more creative responses required by some of the other essay topics.

Tutorial 4

[image source]

E. M. Forster

The Novel tells a story

The English storm the platform in the picture above (from a production of the dramatisation by Santha Rama Rau - basis for the later film by David Lean).

Professor Don Smith, who was at the first performance of the play, tells me that there were a lot of complaints by reviewers afterwards about the "impossibility" of the scene where all the English characters move out of the body of the courtroom to sit up on a level with the judge. They reiterated the old complaint that Forster simply didn't know the Anglo-Indians.

He did know them. He just didn't like them. The scene is (of course) in the novel.

Don said it was fascinating to see Forster sitting there, at the front of the hall, hunched in his chair, saying nothing. Difficult to tell if he enjoyed the show or not.


Contact details for the stage two and stage three student representatives for 220/356 are now available here.

Tutorial 3

[image source]

James Joyce

Narrative point-of-view

Assignment one is due in the Department on Friday of this week, so it's imperative that you're in a tutorial by now, and thus have someone designated to mark your work.

Tutorial 2

[image source]

Willa Cather

Aspects of the Novel

Discussion of Assignment One, the close reading, due in the Department on Friday 15th August (by 5 pm)