Special Topics in Language and Literature: Nobel Literature

English 490.01

No honor given to an author is more celebrated than the Nobel Prize in Literature, which has been awarded annually by the Swedish Academy since 1901. The list of recipients of the prize includes many of the most famous writers of the 20th and 21st centuries. Winners include William Butler Yeats, Thomas Mann, Luigi Pirandello, Eugene O’Neill, Gabriela Mistral, Herman Hesse, André Gide, T. S. Eliot, William Faulkner, Pär Lagerkvist, Ernest Hemingway, Albert Camus, John Steinbeck, Jean-Paul Sartre, Nelly Sachs, Yasunari Kawabata, Samuel Beckett, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Pablo Neruda, Isaac Bashevas Singer, Czesław Miłosz, Elias Canetti, Gabriel García Márquez, Wole Soyinka, Naguib Mahfouz, Octavio Paz, Nadine Gordimer, Derek Walcott, Toni Morrison, Seamus Heaney, Günter Grass, Gao Xingjian, V. S. Naipaul, J. M. Coetzee, Harold Pinter, Orhan Pamuk, Doris Lessing, Herta Müller, Mario Vargas Llosa, Mo Yan, Alice Munro, Svetlana Alexievich, and Bob Dylan. In this class, we’ll have a chance to read (and sometimes to watch or listen to) a selection of novels, short stories, dramas, poetry, essays, creative non-fiction, and songs written by

artists from Europe, North America, Latin America, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East who have won the Nobel Prize in Literature. Over the semester, we’ll follow the historical arc of modern world history, politics, and culture as represented in many of the most influential, popular, and celebrated works of world literature. We’ll reflect on the impact of two World Wars, the rise of fascism and communism, the Holocaust, the collapse of European and Asian colonial empires, the Cold War, the struggles for independence on the part of new nations in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the rise of the American political and economic imperium, the emergence of the European Union and a new (highly controversial and contested) global culture. To be sure, we’ll also consider the many and various revolutions in literary art that have characterized the modern age, from naturalism and realism to modernism, surrealism, expressionism, magical realism, and post-modernism.

READING ASSIGNMENTS: All readings will be in English or English translation (students who can will be encouraged to read works in the original languages). Readings are likely to include some selection of the following: poetry by Yeats, Mistral, Eliot, Sachs, Neruda, Walcott, Miłosz, and Heaney; short fiction by Mann, Gide, Hesse, Faulkner, Lagerkvist, Hemingway, Steinbeck, Kawabata, Solzhenitsyn, García Marquez, Mahfouz, Gordimer, Morrison, Grass, Coetzee, Müller, Vargas Llosa, Mo, and Munro; drama by Pirandello, O’Neill, Sartre, Camus, Beckett, Soyinka, Gao, and Pinter; essays, memoirs, and creative non-fiction by Singer, Canetti, Paz, Pamuk, Lessing, and Alexievich; songs by Dylan.

TERM PAPERS: Four essays of five pages (1500-2000 words) each.

GRADE TO BE BASED ON: Essays, one-page weekly response papers (300 words each), in-class participation. Attendance is mandatory.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION/COMMENTS: This course will mix lectures with in-class discussion. 

Special Topics in Language and Literature: Nobel Literature