The Art of Fiction: Close Analysis, Style and the Novel

Open House Presentation

Maria Fackler, English, Davidson College

Novelist and critic David Lodge contends that fiction is “an essentially rhetorical art—that is to say, the novelist or short story-writer persuades us to share a certain view of the world for the duration of the reading experience, effecting, when successful, that rapt immersion in an imagined reality that Van Gogh caught so well in his painting ‘The Novel Reader.’” Proceeding from both Lodge’s working definition and illustrations drawn from classic and modern texts, seminar participants will explore strategies of textual analysis and broach some of the key concepts and theories that accompany—and structure—the practice of close reading. If content is the arbiter of form, we will consider how novelists have responded to new content by undertaking experiments in fiction. We will also unpack novelist Martin Amis’s assertion that “style is morality” to discover how literary innovation can respond to ethical questions and imperatives. Authors under consideration may include Jane Austen, David Lodge, Virginia Woolf, Martin Amis, Muriel Spark, Ali Smith, Ian McEwan, Alison Bechdel, and Vladimir Nabokov.

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