The issue of a work’s genre inevitably looms larger when that genre is an obscure (or even anomalous one) – like the short novel, or novella. One might just as well imagine a pygmy elephant or miniature mansion. In a way, the contradictory size emphasizes the other qualities of the original thing: its complexity, its form, it movement, all the things that generally go with its enormity. Such a phenomenon begs the question: Can a novel be short and still be a novel? If so, how short? What narrative qualities remain despite variations in length? Is the World of Novella simply a snow-globe version of the World of Novel, or does it actually offer a different system of world-making of its own?
In this course, reading a span of novellas from widely differing authors, cultures, ideologies, and literary moments, we’ll consider how the ironic “shortness” of this form in fact emphasizes other generic qualities – the unfurling of actions and consequences in a narrative, the unfolding of an idea or philosophy, explorations of psychology, experiment with voice and narrative perspective.
The texts we will read include H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr Moreau, Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw, Leo Tolstoy`s The Death of Ivan Ilych, D.H. Lawrence’s The Virgin and the Gypsy, Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffanys, Carson McCuller’s Ballad of the Sad Café, and James Joyce’s The Dead.
Course requirements include active participation in discussion, one close-reading paper (4-5pp), a mid-term exam, one long argumentative paper (8pp), and a final exam.