ENGL 233(F) Great Big Books (Gateway) (Same as Comparative Literature 283) (W)

Some of the greatest novels are really, really long - so long that they are too seldom read and taught. This course takes time to enjoy the special pleasures of novels of epic scope: the opportunity to immerse oneself in a wide and teeming fictional world; to focus sustained attention on the changeable fortunes of characters and societies over a long span of time; to appreciate the detailed grounding of lives in their social environment and historical moment; to experience the leisurely and urgent rhythms, with their elaborate patterning of build-ups and climaxes, that are possible in such works. We will read but two novels, both preoccupied with the disruption and evolution of lives and loves at moments of historic upheaval: War and Peace (1869), Leo Tolstoy's epic of the Napoleonic Wars, and Parade's End (1924-28), Ford Madox Ford's modernist masterpiece about World War I and its traumatic impact on English social life. Set a century apart, the novels are distinguished by vivid and scrupulous representation of their respective wars, by their shrewd accounts of political and social pressures informing the crises, and by their insight into the struggles of those whose lives are engulfed in global crisis. Tolstoy's and Ford's approaches to fictional representation, however, provide intriguing contrasts: one favors the lucidity of classic realism, the other the challenges of modernist innovation; one deploys a single multiplot novel, the other a tretralogy of shorter novels developing a single plot. We will discuss the differing strategies and effects of these two approaches, as well as the more general difficulties of reading and interpreting long fiction. Format: discussion/seminar. Requirements: four short essays, as well as a revision and extension of one of these. Prerequisite: a 100-level English course, except 150. Enrollment limit: 19 (expected 19). Preference to first- and second-year students and majors who have yet to take a Gateway. (1700-1900 or Post-1900)

Hour: TIFFT