English 66: Narrative Setting [Common Ground: Migrations]

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2016

Examining the device of setting—one of the core components of narrative—our journey through literary history and geography begins in the eighteenth century and ends in the twenty-first. If, as the Oxford English Dictionary explains, “setting” refers to “the literary framework of a narrative or other composition,” then we will analyze novels whose frameworks are especially vivid and complex. We will ask a range of interrelated questions: How does a particular setting (e.g. Gatsby’s house) relate to the overall setting (e.g. the American 1920s) of a given work? What makes a setting realistic or fantastic? How does setting impact the unfolding of plot and the development of character? How are settings symbolic? What is the difference between a setting and a scene? Does setting include both nonhuman and human figures? What is the relation between real and imaginary space? To help us pose such questions, we will situate seminal novels by Defoe, Melville, Fitzgerald, Dos Passos, Faulkner, and Donoghue alongside classic works of literary and spatial theory by thinkers such as Roland Barthes, Michel Foucault, Walter Benjamin, and Georg Simmel.