Syllabus: The History of Prose Fiction from the 11th Century to 1880

Syllabus: The History of Prose Fiction from the 11th Century to 1880

Prose Fiction (CMLIT 504)

T 2:30-5:30


Professor Eric Hayot

Office hours: By appointment; I’m on campus daily.



  • Genette, Narrative Discourse (Cornell) (978-0801492594)
  • Murasaki, Tale of Genji (Penguin Classics; abridged) (978-0143039495)
  • Malory, Le Morte d’Athur (Oxford) (978-0199537341)
  • Anonymous, Lazarillo de Tormes and de Quevedo, The Swindler (Penguin Classics) (978-0140449006)
  • Al-Hamadhani, The Maqamat of Badi' al-Zaman al-Hamadhani (Forgotten Books) (978-1605066981)
  • Rabelais, Gargantua and Pantagruel (Penguin Classics) (978-0140445503)
  • Cervantes, Don Quixote (Norton) (978-0393972818)
  • Richardson, Pamela (Oxford) (978-0199536498)
  • Cao Xueqin, Dream of the Red Chamber, vol. 1 (Penguin) (978-0140442939)
  • Sterne, Tristram Shandy (Oxford) (978-0199532896)
  • Goethe, Willhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship, vols. 1 and 2 (Forgotten Books) (978-1440034183 and 978-1440034190)
  • Scott, Ivanhoe (Oxford) (978-0140436587)
  • Sand, Indiana (Oxford) (978-0192837974)
  • Balzac, Lost Illusions (Modern Library) (978-0375757907)
  • Flaubert, Madame Bovary (Penguin) (978-0140449129)
  • Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment (Oxford) (978-0199536368)
  • Machado de Asis, The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas (Oxford) 978-0195101706


In addition to these we will cover a variety of primary and secondary sources, all of which will be available for download as PDF files from my website, at the following URL: You will need a username and password to access the readings. You are responsible for obtaining them, printing them out, and bringing them to class with you.


Course information:

This is a course in the history of prose fiction from the eleventh century to 1880. Among other things it aims to destabilize the category of the “novel,” and to ask whether the structure that would separate the novel from its predecessors can be justified on grounds beyond the ideological. Readings will come from a variety of novelistic (or para-novelistic) forms, including the monogatari, the romance, the picaresque, the xiaoshuo, the maqama, the historical novel, the epistolary novel, the fictional memoir, and the bildungsroman. We will also study theories of narrative and narratology, theories of genre, and theories of literary history. Readings from: Murasaki, Malory, de Quevedo, Al-Hamadhani, Rabelais, Cervantes, Richardson, Cao Xueqin, Sterne, Goethe, Scott, Sand, Balzac, Flaubert, Dostoyevsky, Machado de Asis, and others.

Do not be alarmed by the amount of reading. Most weeks it is 500-800 pages of fiction, plus 20-30 pages of secondary reading. I am not expecting everyone to finish everything. The point is to be thoughtful and to work together to learn. We will assign discussion leaders for individual novels, to make sure that at least one of us has finished the work each time.


Work and grading:

One or two presentations and one or two five-page papers; beyond that, negotiation.

As for grades, I take an A- to indicate acceptable, normal work done by a graduate student of your stage (this standard is different, therefore, for students in different stages). As are given for superior work, B+s for work that is not up to that standard. Bs indicate serious problems.


Graduate audit policy:

It is devoutly hoped that auditors will do the reading and show up to class. Beyond that, no expectations. Auditors who wish to do the written work should speak to me about it.


Lateness and absences:

There are no excused absences unless you need to represent the university in some official way (as an athlete, for instance) or it is a religious holiday for you. Don’t be late to class.

I don’t accept late work unless you talk about it with me in advance. Unexcused late work will receive a grade of 0. If you are not in class when something is due (or when we take an exam), you will receive a grade of 0, unless you have an excused absence.


Plagiarism and academic honesty:

If you use someone else’s ideas, whether through direct quotation or paraphrase, you need to say so. Use parenthetical references and a works cited list (as explained in the MLA Style Guide, available in the library or at the bookstore) to show your reader where your ideas are coming from.

Dishonesty of any other kind will not be tolerated. Dishonesty includes, but is not limited to, cheating, fabricating information or citations, facilitating acts of academic dishonesty by others, having unauthorized possession of examinations, submitting work of another person or work previously used without informing the instructor, or tampering with the academic work of other students. Acts of dishonesty will result in academic sanctions and will be reported to the University’s Judicial Affairs office for possible further disciplinary sanction.


Equal access:

Penn State encourages qualified people with disabilities to participate in its programs and activities and is committed to the policy that all people shall have equal access to programs, facilities, and admissions without regard to personal characteristics not related to ability, performance, or qualifications as determined by University policy or by state or federal authorities. If you anticipate needing any type of accommodation in this course or have questions about physical access, please tell me as soon as possible.


Daily syllabus. Have everything read before coming to class.


Week 1                       August 24

                        Genette, Narrative Discourse

(Note: in order to understand Genette you must read Marcel Proust’s Swann’s Way; do this over the summer.)

Moretti, “The Novel: History and Theory” (PDF)


Week 2                       August 31

                        Murasaki, Tale of Genji (early 11th c)

                        Boscaro, “Monogatari,” from Moretti, Novel v.1 (PDF)


Week 3            September 7

                        Malory, Le Morte d’Athur (1485)

                        Hayot, “The World of the Work of Art” (PDF)

Auerbach, “Figura” (PDF)


Week 4                       September 14

                        The Maqamat of Badi' al-Zaman al-Hamadhani (11th c)

            Anonymous, Lazarillo de Tormes (1554), and de Quevedo, The Swindler (pub. 1626)

            Rico, “Lazarillo de Tormes,” from Moretti, Novel v.2 (PDF)


Week 5                       September 21

                        Rabelais, Gargantua and Pantagruel (1532-54)

                        Bakhtin, “The Bildungsroman and its Significance…” (PDF)


Week 6                       September 28

                        Cervantes, Don Quixote (1605)

                        Auerbach, from Mimesis (PDF)


Week 7                       October 5

                        Richardson, Pamela (1740)

                        Ian Watt, from The Rise of the Novel (PDF)


Week 8                       October 12

                        Cao, Dream of the Red Chamber (1749-59)

                        Plaks, “The Novel in Premodern China,” from Moretti Novel v.1 (PDF)


Week 9                       October 19

                        Sterne, Tristam Shandy (1759-69)

                        Moretti, “Serious Century,” from Moretti, Novel v.1 (PDF)


Week 10          October 26

                        Goethe, Willhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship, vols. 1 and 2 (1795-96)

            Miner, from Comparative Poetics (PDF)


Week 11          November 2

                        Scott, Ivanhoe (1819)

                        Moretti, from Graphs, Maps, Trees (PDF)


Week 12          November 9

                        Balzac, Lost Illusions (1837-43)

                        Woloch, “Minor Characters,” from Moretti Novel v.2 (PDF)


Week 13          November 16

                        George Sand, Indiana (1832)

            Flaubert, Madame Bovary (1857)


--- Thanksgiving Break Nov 22-28 ---


Week 14          November 30

                        Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment (1866)

                        Todd, “The Ruse of the Russian Novel,” in Moretti Novel v.1 (PDF)


Week 15          December 7

                        Machado de Asis, The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas (1880)

                        Schwarz, “The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas,” from Moretti Novel v.1 (PDF)


Eric Hayot, Pennsylvania State University


Thursday, 06/02/2022 - 17:06

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