Research Seminar: Rhetoric & Narration
In this seminar, we'll study selected novels from the perspective of narrative theory, which treats narrative as an experience that unfolds over time and narration as a motivated act—the product of a particular rhetorical situation. We will read some contemporary theoretical and critical material to orient ourselves in the fields of narrative theory, and you will learn some intimidating yet awesome narratological terminology with which to impress and/or appall your friends; we'll test these theories on novels from a variety of historical periods (from the eighteenth century to the present) and national/cultural positions (British, American, postcolonial).
In addition to writing and presenting the research paper (see below), you'll be expected to keep up with the reading (of which there will be a great deal!), contribute thoughtfully and frequently to in-class discussion, post to the class's online discussion board, and probably do some other brief informal writing assignments as well.
We'll be reading eight novels:
- Charlotte Brontė, Jane Eyre (Norton Critical Edition 3rd ed. 978-0393975420)
- J. M. Coetzee, Foe (Penguin 978-014009623X)
- Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe (Penguin Classics 978-0141439823)
- Emma Donoghue, Kissing the Witch (Harper 978-0064407721)
- William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying (Vintage 978-067973225X)
- Henry James, What Maisie Knew (Penguin Classics 978-0140432485)
- Toni Morrison, Beloved (Vintage 978-1400033411)
- Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea (Norton Critical Edition 978-0393960129)
Also required: Narrative Dynamics (Ohio State UP 978-0814250921), an anthology of narrative theory from which we'll read selections. H. Porter Abbott's Cambridge Companion to Narrative (Cambridge UP 978-0521715157) is optional; it's an excellent introduction to some of the concepts we'll discuss and a useful resource for the research paper, but no readings from it will be required.
In addition to reading these print texts, we will probably watch a film or two, and there will almost certainly be some Buffy the Vampire Slayer as well, because teaching a seminar and not including Buffy would be a sad, sad waste of my power.
The major project for this course will be a 12-20 page research paper with an argumentative thesis dealing with one or two of the novels we read in class. Which aspects of the novel(s) your paper takes on will be up to you; we'll devote some time, both in class and in one-on-one meetings, to sorting through options and anticipating possible pitfalls of various approaches. The topic will need to be something within the general field of narrative theory—but, as we'll be addressing in class, that's a pretty big field, so there should still be plenty of room for you to stake out a particular piece of territory you find interesting.
The paper must also engage with the critical work of other scholars: at least five secondary sources. Secondary material we read in class is fair game, but doesn't count towards the five-source minimum.
In addition to writing the paper itself, writers will present abstracts of their papers to the class and will present 7-8 pages from their papers to the university community at the end-of-semester seminar symposium.
last updated: Monday, 14-Oct-2013 17:23:06 CDT