Honors 322:  Political Literary Theory and the Modern Novel - Richard Ruppel
Updated November 17, 2011

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Tuesday & Thursday 9-11am & by appointment

Course Description & Goals

Novels sometimes explore politics directly (most famously and frighteningly, Orwell’s 1984), but all novels may be read politically and culturally.  Through the semester, we’ll read novels linked with readings by or about political and cultural philosophers and analysts.  We’ll learn to read politically, to unearth a novel’s political and cultural assumptions, and we’ll become familiar with Marxist, feminist, new-historical, and cultural ways of reading.  

This course includes a good deal of close reading and writing.  Students will respond to readings online (via Blackboard discussions) and via short essays, culminating in one longer, researched analysis of a work that may or may not be represented on the syllabus.   Students will also lead discussions. 

Required Texts:

Joseph Conrad, The Secret Agent (1907) (Broadview)
Ford Madox Ford, The Good Soldier (1915) (Norton)
D. H. Lawrence, Women in Love (completed 1917, published 1920) (Penguin)
E.M. Forster, Passage to India (1924) (Penguin) 
Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway (1925) (Mariner - Available for rent from the bookstore) 

Readings from and about theorists such as Karl Marx, György Lukács, Walter Benjamin, Raymond Williams, Mikhail Bakhtin, Gayle Rubin, Michel Foucault, Edward Said, Homi Bhabha, and others who have written about politics or about literature from a political or cultural perspective. 

Instructional Strategies: 

I’ll give mini-lectures, especially when we start a new novel or theoretical essay, and we’ll engage in the usual discussions that typify literature classes.  Students will also introduce and lead discussions of theoretical essays. 

Methods of Evaluation:

Responses to the Discussion Board on BlackBoard*           


4 brief (3-5 pages) essays                                                   

50% (12.5% each)



One 10-12 page essay due at the end of the semester        
(these must incorporate research) 



*Criteria for Discussion Board Posts


1. The posting should respond as specifically as possible to the prompt (or you should indicate why you’re modifying the prompt).

2. The posting should reveal close engagement with the work under discussion.

3. The posting should contribute to the discussion, so later postings should not simply repeat earlier postings, and they should reflect some engagement with earlier postings.

4. Postings should be substantive. 

Honors Program Learning Outcomes:

1.    To provide a starting point for integrative exploration of the development of cultures and intellectual achievements through a variety of disciplinary and interdisciplinary perspectives;

2.    To help students develop  the ability to critically analyze and synthesize a broad range of knowledge through the study of primary texts and the encouragement of active learning with fellow students, faculty, and texts (broadly understood);

3.    To help students intentionally apply more integrative and interdisciplinary forms of understanding as they engage advances in knowledge and deal with dramatic challenges shaping the world;

4.    To help students develop effective communication skills, specifically in the areas of written and oral exposition and analysis.


HON 322 will give you the opportunity to develop and enhance all of these skills, which you will demonstrate in your Discussion Board responses, presentations, and essays. 

Weekly Readings & Paper Assignments*:

August 30 - September 1:  Introduction & Chapters 1 & 2 of The Communist Manifesto (Karl Marx, 1848)  

September 6-8:  Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto, begin The Secret Agent. 

September 13-15: The Secret Agent.  

September 20-22:  The Secret Agent.  Mikhail Bakhtin's "Dostoevsky's Polyphonic Novel." 

September 27-29:  The Good Soldier.   

October 4-6:  The Good Soldier(First essay on The Secret Agent due.)

October 11-13:  Women in Love.  

October 18-20:  Women in Love. Michel Foucault's What is an Author? (Second essay on The Good Soldier due.)

October 25-27:  Passage to India. 

November 1-3:  Passage to India.  (Third essay on Women in Love due.)

November 8-10:  Mrs. DallowayVirginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own. 

November 15-17:  Mrs. Dalloway(Fourth essay on Passage to India due.)

November 22:  Start of student presentations & Thanksgiving.  

November 29-December 1:  Student presentations.  (For those writing on Mrs. Dalloway, fourth essay due.)

December 6-8:  Student presentations. 

December 15:  Final exam period, 8-10:30am - extended essays, including research, due. 

*I may modify this schedule of readings, but I'll give you plenty of notice. 

AttendanceMissing more than three classes will lower your grade unless you provide acceptable evidence that the absence was unavoidable. 

ReadingThis is a reading intensive course.  Be sure to have the theoretical piece or novel read before we begin our class discussions. 

EssaysPlease submit your essays electronically in MSWord, using MLA documentation format.  You'll write a brief essay on four of the five novels, and one extended essay. 

PresentationsEach of you will help lead a class discussion of one of our theoretical texts or one that you choose.  You may do this with a partner. 

Chapman University Academic Integrity PolicyChapman University is a community of scholars that emphasizes the mutual responsibility of all members to seek knowledge honestly and in good faith.  Students are responsible for doing their own work, and academic dishonesty of any kind will be subject to sanction by the instructor and referral to the university's Academic Integrity Committee, which may impose additional sanctions up to and including dismissal.  (See the Undergraduate Catalog for the full policy.)

Students with disabilities Policy:  In compliance with ADA guidelines, students who have any condition, either permanent or temporary, that might affect their ability to perform in this class are encouraged to inform the instructor at the beginning of the term.  The University, through the Center for Academic Success, will work with the appropriate faculty member who is asked to provide the accommodations for a student in determining what accommodations are suitable based on the documentation and the individual student needs.  The granting of any accommodation will not be retroactive and cannot jeopardize the academic standards or integrity of the course.


For Thursday, September 1:  Read the first two chapters of The Communist Manifesto.  Come to class with one observation and one question.  You might also begin reading Conrad’s The Secret Agent.   
For Tuesday, September 6:  Read the second two chapters of the Manifesto.  Answer the question in the Blackboard Discussion Board section by 9am Tuesday.  Continue reading The Secret Agent. 
For Thursday, September 8:  Read through the first 8 chapters of The Secret Agent. 
For Tuesday, September 13:  Finish The Secret Agent and answer the Blackboard question (concerned with “the public” vs. “the private”) by 9am Tuesday. 
For Thursday, September 15:  No new assignment.  Start thinking about paper topics for The Secret Agent. 
For Tuesday, September 20:  Answer the second Secret Agent question on Blackboard by noon Monday (the 19th).  Bring your topic for the first essay to class. 
For Thursday, September 22:  Read Mikhail Bakhtin's "Dostoevsky's Polyphonic Novel."  We’ll begin discussing it Thursday.  And start reading the next novel:  The Good Soldier. 
For Tuesday, September 27:  We won’t have class, but you’ll respond to a post concerning the Bakhtin chapter.  (See the Blackboard discussion board.  The assignment is due by noon, September 28.)  . 
For Thursday, September 29:  Finish The Good Soldier. 
For Tuesday, October 4:  Bring a hard copy of your first essay.  And send me an electronic copy as well. 
For Thursday, October 6:  Begin reading Women in Love.   We’ll begin discussing the first 16 chapters on Tuesday (October 11). 
For Tuesday, October 11:  We’ll discuss through chapter 16 of Women in Love on Tuesday (and through chapter 28 Thursday).  Respond to the Blackboard question on the novel by noon, Monday, October 10. 
For Thursday, October 13:  Read through chapter 28 of Women in Love.  Finish the novel for October 18. 
For Tuesday, October 18:  Read the rest of Women in Love and Michel Foucault's What is an Author?  Your second essay (on The Good Soldier) is due October 20.
For Thursday, October 20:  Begin reading Passage to India. 
For Tuesday, October 25:  Read the first 18 chapters (through page 161 of our edition) of Passage to India.  Respond to the question about “What is an Author?” on Blackboard. 
For Thursday, October 27:  Read through the end of Part 2 (through page 266 of our edition) of Passage to India. 
For Tuesday, November 1:  Finish Passage to India.  Read my piece on colonial literature in the Documents section of Blackboard. 
For Thursday, November 3:  No new assignment.  Begin reading Mrs. Dalloway, which we’ll discuss beginning November 8.  (Read the first 100 pages of our edition by Tuesday.)  And we’ll discuss Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own beginning Thursday, November 10.  
For Tuesday, November 8:  Finish through page 100 of Mrs. Dalloway.  Finish the novel and the first two chapters of A Room of One’s Own for Thursday, November 10.
For Thursday, November 10:  Finish the novel and the first two chapters of A Room of One’s Own.
For Tuesday, November 15:  Finish A Room of One’s Own and respond to the Discussion Board question that asks you to discuss parallels between the essay and the novel.  The essay on Passage to India is due November 17. 
For Thursday, November 17:  No new assignment.  Bring your essay on Passage to India (and remember to submit an electronic copy.)
For Tuesday, November 22:  Student presentations: Emily and Isabelle. 

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