Professor Jessica Yood
English 307: The Novel
Lehman College, CUNY, Fall 2013, Tues, Thurs, 2:00-3:15pm

Introduction to English 307: The Novel
Say “novel” and “English” and all kinds of images of the staid, proper, college literature course come to the surface. Indeed, for at least the last century, to study “literature” in colleges and universities in the United States meant that you studied British writers, and, in particular, British novelists. Are there particular features of the British novel that make them challenging? Or suitable for higher learning? Or particularly important for American students to read?  In this course, we will ask these questions by examining one British novel from each of these centuries: 17th, 18th, 19th, 20th. We will read two novels written in the 21st century. The writers of these novels come from the United Kingdom but the stories take place in the United States. Both offer some kind of answer to the questions above. 

The course begins today, with this century, our points of view, our city, our campus, our classroom. We do so in order to ask get a collective idea on our viewpoints and perspectives on reading—as individuals, as students and scholars, as members of diverse communities, and participants in today’s historical moment. As we move into the literature, we will frame our reading with this perspective and challenge it as well.

The course does not offer a full picture of British history or literature, but does focus on certain themes: the place of the writer and writing in British life, the place of “exploration” in creating ideas and confines of class, nation race, gender, family, love and way that novel writing and ideas of exploration came worked together to change British culture and to affect our own culture. We will focus on the historical and social context of the works and on their “reception” in the United States, particularly for our contemporary world.     

Course Goals and Outcomes
At the end of this course students will be exposed to novels written in five different centuries. Students will read these novels not only for pleasure and connection to a range of stories in the human condition, but also to make connections about language, culture, and the place of reading and writing in a changing world. Students will be exposed to the reading, writing, and presentation opportunities that will enable them to reach the goals determined important for 300-level students, as laid out by the English department.  These are posted on the course blackboard site.

Format of the Course—Technology, Interaction, Lecture, Writing
Each class will begin with a question or a proposition that we will explore—largely by writing. We will use our in-class writing as a basis for discussion and larger group activities, and sometimes, presentations (these will be interactive lectures by me or by other class members). Please bring your laptop to class if you have one so that you can take notes and archive thoughts. This is not a computer classroom. That said, I will periodically bring in material from our blackboard site and use the overhead to share it. So, please logon to our blackboard site right away. This is where you turn in your work and find links to required course material, to assignments, rubrics, and announcements. 

One goal of the class is to create a vibrant intellectual community, where the study of literature and culture serve as a springboard for important conversations. In turn, I will often call on people or politely cut off conversation if I think one or two people dominate too much. The goal is for everyone to feel comfortable listening, talking, engaging, learning in the ways they do best.

Theory and Criticism
Blogs and reviews as well as scholarly criticism and theoretical analysis of the novel’s role in culture will be available on blackboard.

(at the Lehman College bookstore unless otherwise noted)

21st Century

  1. Zadie Smith, On Beauty. Published in 2005, this novel takes place at a liberal arts college in America (and sometimes in and around London), on the east coast.  Smith is very influenced by Forster (see below) but brings American culture and her critique of contemporary cultural politics to bear on Forster’s concerns. Smith’s novel puts the race and gender concerns that were simmering in the earlier century’s novels right to surface. We can see how we find them.
  2. Joseph O’Neill, Netherland.  Published in 2008, this novel takes place in New York and London and depicts life in New York City in general and for one immigrant in particular after the attacks of September 11th. This novel also pushes the reader to consider the role of place and race and of our digital culture and personal identity. It offers an important counterpoint to Smith’s work and resonates quite a bit with Robinson Crusoe.

17th Century

  1. Aphra Behn, Oroonoko: online, linked to BB: excerpts. We will read parts of this delicious narrative. Some consider this the first novel ever published. Originally published in 1688, this romance/adventure story will introduce us to some of the enduring conflicts in British culture. We will discuss some theories of the novel and it’s “rise” in Britian.

18th Century

  1. Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe: online, excerpts. Part journalism, part travel-writing, part novel, this novella follows Behn’s work nicely in creating a place for the “hero” in the novel and using travel and adventure as a device to build character and ideas of nation and culture. It’s a raunchy book, especially for 1719, when it was originally published. We’ll tackle key sections of this text.

19th Century

  1. Early 19th Century. Jane Austen, Mansfield Park. Published in 1814, the heroine of this novel finds herself, much like the characters in Netherland far from home. We will watch also watch the amazing film which reveals how dependent the “rise” of the novel was on travel (we’ll return to Oroonoko to discuss this), on colonization, and on racism.

20th Century

  1. E. M. Forster, A Room with a View--watching and reading simultaneously. Published in 1908. We will read this book alongside the film (don’t even think about not reading the novel; it’s amazing). Forster’s use of romance, of language, of sexuality takes some of the concerns in Jane Austen’s work to a new level, and shows how the novel became a conduit for creating and breaking gender/sex/race/class roles--and how it recreated these roles, too.

There will be lively conversation in person and online (sometimes asking for very specific kind of response and sometimes more open), two papers (both book reviews), a midterm exam, and sporadic quizzes. All papers will be submitted via blackboard and not by email. 

Course Policies
Attendance and coming to class on time are two ways to do well in this course. Some policies I stay firm on: 

  • Missing more than three class sessions for any reason results in drop in grade (from an A to an A-)
  • Missing more than four class sessions for any reason results in a failing grade
  • Coming late to class (five minutes=late) more than three times for any reason results in a grade drop (from an A to an A-)
  • I do not accept late papers for first drafts.  If you talk to me in person I can be flexible about revisions.

Participation on discussion board: 20% (see blackboard for instructions)
Participation in class discussion: 10%
Midterm: 10%
Paper One: 25%
Paper Two: 35%

Rubric (Criteria for Grading)
Each assignment will have a rubric attached so you understand the expectations. See the blackboard site as the assignment approaches. 

Important College Information
Accommodating Disabilities
Lehman College is committed to providing access to all programs and curricula to all students. Students with disabilities who may need classroom  accommodations are encouraged to register with the Office of Student Disability Services. For more information, please contact the Office of Student Disability Services, Shuster Hall, Room 238, phone number, 718-960-8441.

The Academic Center for Excellence (ACE) and the Science Learning Center (SLC) Lehman College has two tutoring centers on campus. The ACE provides appointment based and drop-in tutoring in the humanities, social sciences, and writing, as well as general writing skills and test preparation workshops for the CPE. The SCL provides drop-in tutoring for natural and computer science courses. To obtain more information about the ACE and the SLC, please visit their website at, or please call the ACE at 718-960-8175, and the SLC at 718-960-7707.
Calendar and Due Dates for Each Class Session
Under each date you will find the reading, writing, or presentation work due in class on that day. 

Th Aug 29 Introduction: The Novel in An Age of Novelty
Reading: handout from The New York Times

Tu Sept 3      
Reading: On Beauty
Writing: an email of introduction (see bb for instructions)
Watching: Youtube with Zadie Smith

Th Sept 5 No class, college is closed

Tu Sept 10     
Reading: On Beauty
Writing: First Discussion Board Assignment

Th Sept 12
Reading: On Beauty and select book reviews

Tu Sept 17
Reading: On Beauty

Th Sept 19
Reading: On Beauty and select reviews

Tu Sept 24
Reading: Netherland 
Writing:  Second Discussion Board Assignment

Th Sept 26 No Class. Conferences held by appointment in my office Carman 387

Tu Oct 1     
Reading: Netherland and select reviews
Watching: Youtube with Joseph O’Neill

Th Oct 3
Reading: Netherland

Tu Oct 8
Reading: Netherland 

Th Oct 10
Reading: Netherland and Zadie Smith “Two Directions for the Novel” (BB) 

Tu Oct 15 No class, college on a Monday schedule

Th Oct 17
Writing: First Draft of Book Review Due On BB and In Class
Workshop on drafts

Tu Oct 22 Travel, Adventure, and The History of the Novel
Reading: Oroonoko

Th Oct 24
Reading: Oroonoko 
Writing: Third Discussion Board Assignment

Tu Oct 29     
Reading: Robinson Crusoe

Th Oct 31
Reading: Robinson Crusoe and Moretti, from “History of the Novel”

Tu Nov 5 Midterm Exam

Th Nov 7
Reading: Mansfield Park

Tu Nov 12
Reading: Mansfield Park
Writing: Fourth Discussion Board Assignment

Th Nov 14
Reading: Mansfield Park and Said, from Culture and Imperialism

Tu Nov 19
Reading and Watching: Mansfield Park

Th Nov 21
Watching: Mansfield Park
Writing: Fifth Discussion Board Assignment

Tu Nov 26
Review of what we’ve read so far

Th Nov 28 No Class, college is closed

Tu Dec 3
Reading and Watching: A Room With A View
Writing: First Draft of Second Book Review Due on BB and In Class

Th Dec 5
Reading and Watching: A Room With A View

Tu Dec 10 Reading, Writing, and Novelty Today

Th Dec 12 Last day of class.  All work must be submitted by 5pm today.