Comparative Literature | Realism, Naturalism & Symbolism
C335 | 1230 | Chaitin
11:15-12:30 TR BH 242
Satisfies Cultural Studies.
(meets with C535)
In this course we will study the principal European literary movements
in the latter half of the 19th Century and the first decades of the
20th Century. Starting with a story by Balzac, to get a sense of the
blend of realism and romanticism that marks fiction in the first part
of the century, we will read major works of narrative and dramatic
fiction by Flaubert, Zola, Dostoevsky, George Eliot, Ibsen and
Chekhov. The focus of these realist and naturalist texts being the
representation of reality, we will ask, ‘What is the nature of the
reality to be depicted?'–historical events, political, social and
economic conditions, psychological states, feelings and desires, the
relations between the sexes, philosophical, ethical, or religious
themes; and ‘What are the principles of realist representation?'–basic
narrative structures like the organization of time, space and
causality, modes of depicting character, conceptions of plot,
techniques of narration, the relationship of the narrator to the
world, events and characters narrated.
In the second part of the course we will study simultaneous or
anti-realist trends of the symbolist and decadence movements through
the poetry of Baudelaire, Verlaine, Rimbaud, Mallarme, Yeats and T.S.
Eliot, the prose fiction of Huysmans and Wilde, and, time permitting,
dramas by Villiers de l'Isle-Adam and Strindberg. Our goal here will
be to determine the political, ethical and aesthetic reasons for
rejecting realism, to examine claims about the inadequacy of realism
to represent the values and complexities of the modern world, and to
understand the preoccupation with the themes of apathy, evil,
perversion and the supernatural within the framework of new and often
experimental conceptions of art as a superior antithesis to life and
Grades will be based on class participation and two exams–a mid-term
and a final.
Graduate students will be required to read supplementary critical
essays and to write a substantial term paper, in addition to the
reading assignments and exams.