Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Novel?

So, wisdom of the internets: if you were going to teach a Great Works of Lit in English from the Middle Ages to the late 18th century, and were thinking about teaching a novel (or two), what novel(s) would you likely teach, and why?

Does everyone still read Robinson Crusoe in high school, or has that been replaced by one or another vampire tale?

14 comments:

  1. Pamela. It (sometimes) gets students fired up, and it's more readable than Robinson Crusoe because the form is more familiar and the characters are--dare I say it?--easier to identify with. I would say that it's also easier to teach a quick introduction to common theories of the novel vis a vis Pamela than RC.

    As far as I know, RC isn't standard fare in high school.

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  2. Aphra Behn's Oroonoko?

    I'd agree that you can't count on them having read RC in high school, though.

    While these aren't novels, if I were you I'd want to assign something like The Book of the Courtier or Pepys' diary. Or some of the stuff from The Spectator.

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  3. I love Pamela (and Shamela) and Joseph Andrews and The Vicar of Wakefield (is that within the 18th C or does it jump us into the 19th?) My fave, though, forever and ever, is Tristram Shandy...

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  4. What fun! (I used to do C18, but now do something entirely different, so thinking about long C18 is just pure fun for me.)

    If you're interested in doing some history of the novel stuff, then I'd say probably Pamela. Pamela is also fascinating if you're interested in talking about the culture around the book: there were Pamela cups and things, I believe, not completely dissimilar to action figures now.

    If you're NOT doing history of the novel stuff though -- as you might not in a survey that really ends before the complete rise of the novel as we know it -- then Robinson Crusoe, Oroonoko, Tom Jones, Gulliver's Travels. All of these are pretty readable. Oroonoko is, of course, pretty short. If not Pamela, then I'd make the decision based on the themes of the other things you're going to cover.

    You could also pair two shorter novels together. Since women were writing a lot in C18, you could pair two novels, one by a man, one by a woman. I had a grad class that worked that way once. Just a thought.

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  5. Would a (shortish) Gothic novel paired with Northanger Abbey work? Or is that later than you want to go?

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  6. At least here in Arkansas, I can attest that no one reads Robinson Crusoe anymore. I referenced the classic scene (in which Crusoe spots Friday's footprint on the beach) in class the other day and I might as well have been speaking French. No one had any idea what I was talking about.

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  7. I shoehorn in Oroonoko and Haywood's Fantomina.

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  8. Tristram Shandy! Moll Flanders!

    (Though Gulliver's Travels and Robinson Crusoe are must-reads, I think, too...lots of later texts refer back to them, allusion-wise.)

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  9. In history classes I've used Joseph Andrews -- it plays off Pamela, and is short and manageable. Tom Jones is great, but students would find it long, I suspect. Or, if you pair, I'd do Mysteries of Udolpho and Northanger Abbey...

    But really,people have named great novels. Moll Flanders is fun (have them discuss why there are no chapters...) and Tristram Shandy is trippy.

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  10. I agree with the Joseph Andrews selection though Moll Flanders is also an excellent teach.

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  11. I think it is quite unusual to read Robinson Crusoe in high school these days, unless your high school hasn't revamped its curriculum since 1948. So I would keep RC under consideration!

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  12. Joseph Andrews! Joseph Andrews!

    Not only is it hilarious, but, for an 18th-c. novel, it's not even that long!

    (I've never read Robinson Crusoe, myself, so I can't even claim the high ground in lamenting the state of modern education. Actually, I had fabulous high school English classes, in which we read things like Sylvia Plath and Mme. Bovary, but RC nonetheless didn't make the cut.)

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  13. Anonymous7:57 PM

    I read Robinson Crusoe in high school! (Class of '09, so, not too long ago.)

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