Novel Transgressions

This class introduces students to the novel by emphasizing the ways in which the genre evolves over time, developing new conventions, literary techniques, and representational strategies in response to shifting social, political, and aesthetic contexts. Students will explore how transgressions in various novels both reflect and contest social norms, revealing the ways that the novel as a genre is always in tension with ideology. To this end, students will analyze how novels encode systems of belief as well as how different characters might challenge these beliefs through their actions, producing ironic tensions between the social and political systems the text represents and the actions of an individual character. In this way, students learn how novels reflect their social and political contexts, paying close attention to how novel transgressions allow the reader to consider the multivocal qualities of a text. Students will be encouraged to consider how novels’ multiple voices create space to think critically about race, class, gender, and sexuality both historically and in our present. Texts will include Oroonoko, Wuthering Heights, Howards End, Sula and Sing, Unburied Sing. Throughout the semester, students will consider how these novels relate to the common first-year book, Ta-Nehisi Coates’ The Water Dancer. By the end of the class, students will understand how the novels’ depictions of transgression both express and critique the systems of belief in which they are embedded. 

Learning Goals

This course fulfills these learning goals for the Bucknell Literary Studies program. Students will learn to:

  • Analyze texts and respond to their aesthetic and cultural value. 
  • Respond to literary texts and understand their historical and cultural contexts. 
  • Articulate ideas in discussion and in oral presentations. 
  • Write coherently and persuasively with attention to effective organization. 

As a W1 course, this class will include:

  • Recurring instruction in writing
  • Teaching of the writing process: planning, composing, revising, and editing
  • Teaching the importance of expository skills
  • Frequent writing
  • Teaching the use of writing as thinking and as a means of creating and processing knowledge

Required Texts

Behn, Aphra. Oroonoko. Ed. Paul Salzman. Oxford World Classics, 2009.

Brontë, Emily. Wuthering Heights. Ed. John Bugg. Oxford World Classics, 2009. 

Forster, E.M. Howard’s End. Ed. David Lodge. Penguin Books, 2000. 

Morrison, Toni. Sula. Vintage, 2004. 

Ward, Jesmyn. Sing, Unburied Sing. Scribner Books, 2017.