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Course Detail

Seminar A: Gossip or B: Twenty-First-Century British Literature or C: Joyce/Nabokov

Check the schedule to determine which section is being offered.
Fulfills the Historical Approaches requirement of the English major.

472A Gossip


Drawing on cultural studies and performance studies, this trans-historical and transnational course investigates the role gossip plays in literature, psychoanalysis, journalism, politics, television, film, and new media. The seminar foregrounds the imbrication of gossip and scandal with constructions of gender and sexuality.

This topic counts for the Gender and Sexuality Studies major and minor.

472B 21st Century British Literature


This course considers the transformation of the book as artifact and idea since the turn of the century. We will investigate the new, often experimental, narrative forms authors have developed as a response to such twenty-first-century pressures as globalization, terrorism, and genetic engineering. Questions for the seminar include: What are the overarching concerns for fiction in the wake of the postmodern and postcolonial moment? What kind of relationship can we expect between science and literature in the 21st-century novel? Does contemporary science contribute to newly emergent structures of feeling that the novel might register? And if such structures call up concepts of the posthuman, how might they sit with the traditionally humanistic orientation of the novel as a broadly popular genre?  How does post-9/11 fiction respond to current fears of technological and/or natural annihilation? What are the factors determining pre-canonical status for the texts on this syllabus, and how can we understand the new circulation of global capital and cultural value? Students will consider the following concepts: virtual fiction; cloning, the post-human, and dystopian responses to the possibility of a genetically engineered future; alternative modes of narration; the figure of the artist manqué; ghostwriting as a narrative technique (and as a 21st-century replacement for the omniscient narrator); detective fiction; fictions of terrorism and the politics of post-9/11 vulnerability; the new Bildungsroman; the author business, and the influence of book clubs and literary prizes such as the Man Booker. 

472C Joyce/Nabokov



Why a seminar on Joyce/Nabokov?   Like most seminars, this one requires intensive attention to the themes and techniques of  major writers.  These two long dead writers consists of their still having in print almost all the books they've written,  with those books provoking over 10,000 critical pieces just since 1963.  Joyce's influence is acknowledged by Samuel Beckett, Jorge Luis Borges, Anthony Burgess, Philip K. Dick, Umberto Eco, William Faulkner, Arthur Miller, Raymond Queneau, Philip Roth, Salman Rushdie, Tom Stoppard, and Derek Walcott while Martin Amis,  John Barth, Paul Bowles, Italo Calvino, Bobby Ann Mason, James Merrill, Thomas Pynchon, W.G. Sebald, Zadie Smith, Mark Strand,  Amy Tan, and Richard Wilbur mention Nabokov's, and probably Joyce's by way of Nabokov.

Method:  We will concentrate on (1) their styles (Joyce's "High Modernist" and Nabokov's supposed "post-modernist"/"metafictional"/"intertextual" one) since the grit in these men's words has gotten under the skin of many a reader with an innovative critical approach; (2) their tendencies to generate their respective narrative authority from events in their own lives, especially their respective experiences of exile; (3) their depictions of Love in its various forms (including the loss of it); (4) the absenting presence of the big bogey, Death; and (5) the last member of that robust triumvirate, Art. 

Goals:   A foretaste of mature and thoughtful reading; confidence that you can do independent, original,  and careful scholarship on even the most challenging writing.

But is this class really for you?  If you believe that certain words or subjects should be off-limits to writers or readers, this is not the class for you.  Ulysses and Lolita each continue to sell well over 100,000 copies per year, yet they not only contain but also provoke language and situations which some students may find objectionable.  This is a class for those students who not only possess the already uncommon share of discipline, imagination, memory, and attention to details vouchsafed to most who choose Davidson, but who are also blessed with an ability to heft another's words and deliver and withstand therapeutic non-rancorous badgering especially on the topics of  suspending disbelief in the transfigurative power of art and the (ir)relevance of contemporary critical theory. 

Texts: 0-14-024774-2 Joyce,  Dubliners; 670-0 180301; Joyce, Portrait of the Artist as Young Man; 0-19-511029-3 Fargnoli: James Joyce A-Z 0-394-74312-1; Joyce: Ulysses, Gabler Edition;  0-679-72725-6 Nabokov, Gift; 1-883011-18-3 Novels and Memoirs; 1-883011-19-1 Novels 1955-1962 0-679-72997-6; Nabokov,  Stories  of Vladimir Nabokov; 052153643X; Connolly, The Cambridge Companion to Nabokov (Recommended Only); 0-679-72609-8 Nabokov: Strong Opinions (Recommended Only); 978-0-3-0-7-27189-1Nabokov, The Original of Laura (Recommended Only)


Juniors and Seniors only.