Saturday, June 8, 2013

History of the Novel

The first class I taught, as a student teacher in Vermont, was Freshman Honors Humanities. Five years on, and I’ll be teaching humanities again for the first time since then. With a friend and co-worker we pieced together an elective called ‘History of the Novel’. He won’t be teaching it with me, it turns out, as he’ll be seeking out the California dream in the fall. So now I’m looking over the list of novels, some of which I’ve not yet read, and wondering if I should make any changes.

The purpose of the class is to show how the novel format developed, and also highlight novels that had an influence on their societies. (But no ‘Bleak House’ since they do it Senior year.) Here’s what we eventually came up with, with one variation to our list that I’ve already made:

1021The Tale of Genji, Murasaki Shikibu
1360 Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Luo Guangzhou
1485 Le Mort d’Arthur, Thomas Mallory
1564 Gargantua and Pantagruel, Rabelais
1615 Don Quixote, Cervantes
1759 Candide, Voltaire
1818 Frankenstein, Mary Shelly
1852 Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe
1865 Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
1874 Middlemarch, George Eliot
1888 Looking Backward, Edward Bellamy
1906 The Jungle, Upton Sinclair
1914 Tarzan of the Apes, Edgar Rice Burroughs
1916 A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce
1971 Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Hunter S. Thompson
1987 Watchmen, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

The ones that show development of the format: Genji, Romance, Mort, Gargantua, Quixote, Candide, Frankenstein, Portrait, Fear, Watchmen. The ones that were influential on their society: Uncle, Alice, Middlemarch, Backward, Jungle, Tarzan. I switched his pick for the 1700s, Gulliver’s Travels, to Candide. The next runner-up would’ve been Robinson Crusoe. I wanted something else not in the English language, though, since everything post 1800 is (plus Mort, so 11/16). Three satires in a row is a bit much, perhaps, but there’s nothing else for 1500s except Gargantua, or Quixote for the 1600s. And I’ve not read any of the other 1700s classics (Moll Flanders, Pamela, Tristram Shandy, etc.)

I’m currently reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and have yet to read Genji, Fear, and The Jungle. So those are now my priorities, reading-wise, for the next couple of months. Anything I’ve missed, should have included, doesn’t make sense, etc.? I’m most willing to part with/change Fear and Loathing, since we just felt we needed something between Portrait and Watchmen. (But it has to be either society-changing or format-changing.)

Also – heaven help the English teacher who ends up in this class in my friend’s stead. Because I am not an English teacher, or certified, so someone had better be very well-read and ready to take on a heck of an intense class. We’re only reading selections, obviously since this is high school, but still.

1 comment:

Karen said...

Is Frankenstein your gothic novel? I'd throw in a mystery, since that's a genre, too. You can kill two birds with one stone with Wilkie Collins. (There's a pun!) Or you could go with Agatha or any of the 1920s ladies (nice to have women authors): Dorothy L. Sayers, Margery Allingham ... Do you think Middlemarch changed society? I think Gulliver's Travels w/b easier for the kids than Candide -- but maybe not. GT is certainly longer. You don't want to leave out the Houyhnhnms!