Empathy and the Novel

[This is my provisional course description for English 201 L13 in Fall 2016.]

What are novels good for? Conventional wisdom says that when we read novels, we allocate scarce resources of time to a leisure activity. But economic calculations of productivity or escapism are too reductive. Novels expand our narrow views of the world by making us empathize with characters who are overtly unlike us. The novels we read in this course will unsettle our conventional thinking. Negotiating between human desires and social mores, their characters transport us from our circumstances into rapturous loves, geopolitical crises, sun-dappled landscapes, and sterile sanitoriums.

Provisional Reading List:

  • E. M. Forster, A Room with a View (1908)
  • Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita (1955)
  • Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar (1963)
  • Kazuo Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day (1988)

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