Department of English

University of Toronto

ENG455H1S L0101

ENG455H1S   L0101   T4-6
Advanced Studies Group 5: Genre Fiction and Contemporary Novels
Instructor: Prof. T. Dancer
Office Location: Jackman Humanities Building, Room 713
Email: thom.dancer@utoronto.ca

Brief Description of Course:  In response to the turn to genre fiction by several prominent “literary” authors (most notably Kazuo Ishiguro and David Mitchell), novelist Stephen Marche announced that “the forms of genre—science fiction, fantasy, the hardboiled detective story, the murder mystery, horror, vampire, and werewolf stories—have become the natural homes for the most serious literary questions.” In this seminar we will examine this claim and its implications for our understanding of aesthetic value, high vs. low culture, and the future of the novel. Reading exemplary novels alongside relevant works of philosophy, criticism, literary journalism, and literary history, we will consider questions such as: Does the turn to genre reflect a compromising of aesthetic to commercial value? What is the relationship between high art and popular culture? Does genre mean the death of the serious literary novel? Does a concern with genre, form, and beauty militate against the novel’s representational project? What narrative resources might genre fiction offer for new political, ethical, and aesthetic thought?

Required Reading: Readings may include Kazuo Ishiguro, The Buried Giant; David Mitchell, The Bone Clocks; Zadie Smith On Beauty; Emily Mandel, Station Eleven; Colson Whitehead, Zone One; China Mieville, Embassytown; Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, Watchmen.

First Three Authors/Texts: Ishiguro, Mitchell, Zadie Smith.

Method of Evaluation: Preparation and participation; wrap-up assignments; research proposal and presentation; final research essay.

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