Anyone who’s read On Beauty knows that author Zadie Smith’s attitude towards academia is ambivalent at best. But this is what passes for a day job in the novel writing world, and so this semester finds Smith up at Columbia, teaching a fiction seminar called “Sense and Sensibility.” The syllabus for Spring 2009 Writing R6212 section 001:
Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, David Foster Wallace
Catholics, Brian Moore
The Complete Stories, Franz Kafka
Crash, J.G. Ballard
An Experiment in Love, Hilary Mantel
Modern Criticism and Theory: A Reader, David Lodge
The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis
My Loose Thread, Dennis Cooper
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Muriel Spark
The Loser, Thomas Bernhard
The Book of Daniel, E.L. Doctorow
A Room with a View, E.M. Forster
Reader’s Block, David Markson
Pnin, Vladimir Nabokov
The Quiet American, Graham Greene
And this entry on Columbia’s site adds George Saunders’s Pastoralia, Tom McCarthy’s Remainder, W.G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn, JG Ballard’s The Atrocity Exhibition, readings from Orwell, and Richard Yates’s Eleven Kinds of Loneliness to that list. Her full course description:
What does ‘having a sensibility’, literary or otherwise, mean? Is it something one acquires, something innate, or something else again? We’re going to read a selection of very good 20th century novels (and one book of poems) concentrating on whatever is most particular to them, in the hope that this might help us understand whatever is most particular to us. The reading list is long* and heterogeneous in the hope of encouraging sympathy for a broad range of literary sensibilities regardless of what our own natural inclinations may be. Students will give short presentations, and at the end of the course will write a piece of fiction, or a piece of literary criticism, of at least five pages.
The course will be punctuated by secondary readings of literary criticism and philosophy.
* Most of the novels are short.
Nice asterisk. I kinda want to take that “The Comic Novel” course listed on that same page, too…[Via The Elegant Variation]