Novel Scenes

Spring 2016-2017


Lawrence Rothfield

One way of thinking about the novel is as the literary form made possible by the emergence of a distinct arena of social interactions – from flirting to striving for status to solidarity-seeking and beyond – that is captured, albeit vaguely, by the everyday use of the term “scene”. In this course, we will try to define the various elements that distinguish scenes structurally from other settings for action; we will look at some sociological theorizations of different kinds of scenes (Tardieu, Bourdieu, Habermas, Freud, Kenneth Burke, Thrift) in order to try to differentiate various kinds of scenes; and we will ask how novelists – Austen, Flaubert, Musil, Woolf, Kerouac -- have exploited for narrative purposes the power dynamics and the ethical or political possibilities inherent in scenes. (18th/19th)