Intro to Fiction

The origins of the novel are often accredited to the eighteenth century in England, but long-form fiction long predates those early English texts. The history of world literature extends not only across space but also across time, with fiction as form adapted again and again to create new narratives and new styles with which to tell those narratives. From early oral stories to the classic novel to the short story and later forms like the graphic novel, fiction cannot be limited to a handful of canonical novels.

This course will offer a brief glimpse into the many possibilities that fiction has to offer. Starting with an excerpt from The Tale of Genji, a long Japanese text often considered the first novel, and ending with a series of more recent shorter-form fiction, we will explore the category we call fiction and how we might reimagine it. Through a mixture of oft-referenced texts and a few lesser read texts, we will engage with a number of questions about form, narrative, and adaptation. We will also view these texts in relation to the many other forms of cultural production that were developing at the same time, particularly through contemporary artwork.

I invite you to make connections to any adaptations of the texts we read that you may have encountered. The goal is to find ways in which fiction shifts and changes, rather than the ways it stays the same. That said, there will be some key themes and ideas that we will stay with throughout the semester. Because fiction as a category has a long and complex history, there are a number of terms and concepts with which you may not be familiar. Don’t worry! I will spend some of each class defining terms and inviting questions about the period and the literature we are reading. That said, this is a discussion-based class, and I expect you to participate enthusiastically in those discussions and come to class prepared.1

1 This course was designed for ENGL 103 at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.