Course Syllabus--Fall 2000
Eng 230H: Great Narrative Works
-----The Building Blocks of Epic
Professor: D. F. Felluga
Office Hours: T, Th 4:30-6:00
HEAV 430; telephone: 43770
Class: T, Th 12:00-1:15; HEAV 101
This course will take the class designation at its word--"great narrative works." That is, we will not only read narrative texts but we will attempt to understand how and why a great narrative works. What are a good story's building blocks? More specifically, we will examine the building blocks of the generic form that is considered the primary example of "great" narrative--the epic. The question of genre will, therefore, occupy our interests throughout the semester as we discuss the various permutations that epic has undergone over the last twenty-four centuries--from Homeric epic to Biblical epic to the personal epic. We will also examine the epic's relationship to the rise of the novel and to parodic forms such as Alexander Pope's "The Rape of the Lock." Some of the issues that we will discuss include the gradual diminution of epic as we approach the modern period, the relationship of the epic to a society's ideologies, the role of gender politics in epic form, and the role of epic ideals in colonial expansion. Two films will also be shown and discussed in conjunction with Conrad's Heart of Darkness. This web site will serve as a studying resource and will grow from week to week depending on what we choose to discuss each class. In addition to this syllabus page, students will want to consult the web site's Guide to Terms, which defines specialized terms brought up in class discussion.
|Participation/Attendance: 20%||Mid-Term Exam: 15%|
|First Essay (4-5 pages): 15%||Final Exam: 25%|
|Second Essay (5-6 pages): 25%|
BOOKS (all but the Reader available at University
Homer. The Odyssey. Trans. Allen mandelbaum. Bantam. ISBN 0-553-21399-7
John Milton. Paradise Lost. Norton. ISBN 0-393-96293-8
Alexander Pope. Essay on Man and Other Poems. Dover Thrift Editions. ISBN 0-486-28053-5
Mary Shelley. Frankenstein. Broadview. ISBN 1-55111-038-5
Joseph Conrad. Heart of Darkness. Dover Thrift Editions. ISBN 0-486-26464-5
Chinua Achebe. Things Fall Apart. Anchor. ISBN 0-385-47454-7
COURSE READER. Available at CopyMat
THE ART OF NARRATIVE
In this first week, I will introduce students to the basic structures of narrative form, specifically the distinction between story and discourse and between the proairetic and hermeneutic codes of narrative. Citizen Kane and an episode of Star Trek called "Cause and Effect" will serve as our guides
Tuesday, August 22, 2000
Thursday, August 24, 2000
THE ORAL PERCEPTION OF REALITY
This second week will introduce students to classic epic form with Homer as our guide. Lecture will discuss the movement from oral to literate culture and the narrative and ideological effects that result from this shift.
Tuesday, August 29, 2000
Thursday, August 31, 2000
EPIC TIME AND THE ORAL TRADITION
This week we will discuss the specifics of epic form. What are its constituent features, its conventions and generic parameters? We will also pay specific attention to the trustworthiness of Odysseus' tales, with an eye to the unreliable narrators that we will have to face later in the semester. What is significant when one moves from the faceless rhapsode (who is an omniscient narrator by virtue of the invocation to the muse) to the the very real and immediate circumstance of Odysseus' tale to the Phaeacians?
Tuesday, September 5, 2000
Thursday, September 7, 2000
NARRATORS AND NARRATION
Finishing up the Odyssey, we will also begin discussing how Milton's revisioning of the epic departs from Homer, paying especial attention to Milton's invocations at the beginning of Book I and III. How does Christianity as a subject affect the epic conventions we have examined so far? How does the foregrounding of the author (along with specific traits like his blindness) affect what had previously been a primarily oral and, therefore to some extent, authorless text?
Tuesday, September 12, 2000
Thursday, September 14, 2000
TRUTH, JUDGMENT, AND PUNISHMENT
This week, we will examine the ethical dimension of epic form by placing Satan on trial. In anticipation of the Romantic claim that Milton secretly sided with the devil in his epic, the class will be divided into prosecution and defense teams that will use the first three books of Paradise Lost as their primary evidence.
Tuesday, September 19, 2000
- J. Milton, Paradise Lost, Book I
Thursday, September 21, 2000
Preparations for the trial of Satan will continue this week.
Tuesday, September 26, 2000
Thursday, September 28, 2000
THE TRIAL OF SATAN
Our preparations come to a head this week with the Trial of Satan, starring Prof. Shaun Hughes as Satan (sorry, Lucifer), Prof. Angelica Duran as God, and Prof. Kristina Bross as the bailiff.
Tuesday, October 3, 2000
Thursday, October 5, 2000
FIRST ESSAY DUE
THE MOCK EPIC
This week, we will begin our examination of Pope's Rape of the Lock. Some of the questions that we will address include: how does the eighteenth century differ from our own? What are the characteristics of the heroic couplet? Why is the epic no longer a viable form in this period? What precisely are the effects of parody on the genre of epic?
Tuesday, October 10, 2000
Thursday, October 12, 2000
THE ROMANTIC REVOLUTION: NATURE AND THE SELF
We will continue our discussions of the previous week by examining how Wordsworth departs from the traditions of classical and biblical epic. How might the eighteenth-century travesty of epic conventions serve to usher in Wordsworth's innovations in the Prelude? Can we still claim for Wordsworth's work the status of epic? Our readings of Book V will allow us to explore Wordsworth's quite self-conscious "inter-textuality." What are his sources and how does he depart from these texts?
Tuesday, October 17, 2000
Thursday, October 19, 2000
Tuesday, October 24, 2000
Thursday, October 26, 2000
- Sample Student Responses to exam questions
- Synopsis of class: Tuesday, October 24, 2000
THE NOVEL AND THE EPIC
We will continue our discussion of narrative structure this week by closely analyzing the effect of first-person narration on novelistic form. The complicated frame-within-a-frame structure of Shelley's text will be examined in detail and we will begin a discussion of why this particular format is so effective in this tale. We will also discuss once again the relationship of Shelley's text to epic tradition, particularly Paradise Lost and the Romantic movement with which she found herself associated.
Tuesday, October 31, 2000
Thursday, November 2, 2000
NARRATION AND NARRATIVE FORM, OR, THE REVOLUTION AGAINST ROMANTICISM
This week, we will discuss Mary Shelley's own re-working of epic expectations in the newly ascendent genre of the novel. What are the echoes in Shelley's text to those epic texts examined so far? We can also begin to discuss Shelley's use of narrational form to structure her story. Is her narrator a reliable witness and, if not, how does the device of the unreliable narrator affect the narrative?
Tuesday, November 7, 2000
Thursday, November 9, 2000
CITIZEN KANE, APOCALYPSE NOW, AND THE HEART OF DARKNESS
After a showing of F. F. Coppola's Apocalypse Now, we will analyze both this film and Orson Welles' Citizen Kane with an eye to Conrad's Heart of Darkness, the text that influenced both films to different extents. How do these films complicate the exploration that we have made to date into the relationship of narrative to the formation of identity?
Tuesday, November 14, 2000
Thursday, November 16, 2000
SECOND ESSAY DUE
TRAUMA AND THE UNNARATABLE KERNEL OF NARRATIVE
This week we will begin a discussion of narrative's reliance on what is not narratable. We will begin by recalling some of the structures used by Romantic poets to deal with some ineffable kernel at the heart of a work. Indeed, it may be that our drive to tell a tale stems precisely from our fears of being faced with something we cannot narrate--the traumatic, the monstrous, the divine. How do novels (as opposed to poems) deal with these traumatic kernels at the heart of their tales? What is the relationship of narration to trauma?
Tuesday, November 21, 2000
Thursday, November 23, 2000
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THE OTHER SPEAKS?
Having discussed Conrad's use of Africa as the unnaratable "other," we will now be able to examine what happens when that other speaks for himself, claiming the epic conventions of the colonizer for a tale of the oppressed.
Tuesday, November 28, 2000
Thursday, November 30, 2000
THE PLACE OF EPIC IN THE POSTMODERN WORLD
We will finish by discussing whether the epic is possible in our own culture. We will also continue to discuss Achebe's relationship to the epic tradition we have examined throughout the semester. The inevitable final question will be: how should we read the ending of Achebe's text?
Tuesday, December 5, 2000
Thursday, December 7, 2000
: BE SURE TO BRING EXAM BOOKLETS TO THE FINAL EXAM AND BEST OF LUCK!
Last Revised: December 6, 2000
Michelangelo and Munch
images courtesy of D. Creelma