ENG5520Y: Narrative, Narratology, and Modernist Fiction


This is a page for recording issues that have come up in class discussion or presentations. We might try to develop some of them as continuing themes in the course.

1. If the narrative point of view is, in effect, subjective, is this subjectivity transgressed by being universalized? (Wendy Yano/Sara Henstra)

Follow-up: If the narrator is universalized, what specific attitudes, values, or assumptions are treated as universal? And how and to what extent is the narrative point of view universalized? Given that the reader is invited to share the narrator's perspective, just how much is the reader then forced to conclude?

2. Is Modernism a transitional stage or a movement in its own right? (Wendy Yano)

Follow-up: Are all movements transitional stages?

3. What publication details are significant? e.g. the date of a writer's theoretical comments compared to the date of fictional composition (Wendy Yano); the form of publication and the way it encodes a likely readership/audience (Nancy Earle)

Follow-up: What do the material conditions of publication tell us about the nature of the Modernist period? How does James's awareness of what he calls his "circulation" enter into his response to Wells?

4. When we situate a writer's theories about the novel in the context of the debates of the time, does it help to approach these debates as generational conflicts? (Nancy Earle)

Follow-up: Link to the question raised about Modernism as a period of transition: that is, a period to be understood in terms of what comes before and after. If James is being reacted against by Wells, how did James in his turn react against Besant? To what extent do postmodernists construct modernism as what postmodernism is not, as part of a generational conflict?

5. To what extent do we give absolute authority over the work to the author? How do we evaluate a novel's moral worth if the interpretation of it (its meaning) is implicated in the interpretive/cultural codes of its readers? (Nancy Earle, following up Tim Ricketts' presentation)

6. To what degree does the use of a particular narrative form (discourse) inscribe and validate cultural codes? (Michelle Levy)

7. Is the novel a form more plastic/elastic than classical forms and therefore more conducive to the dismantling of unitary views and more subject to dialogized voices? (Michelle Levy)

Follow-up: Keep this question in mind when reading the selection from Bakhtin.

8. What is the role of preconception/prejudice in reading? To what extent is understanding (Strether's understanding of his experience, our understanding of James's text) a continual process of reconstruction? (from Sara Henstra's presentation)