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Skidmore College
First-Year Experience

Scribner Seminar Program
Course Description

Novels in the Grip of History

Instructor(s): April Bernard, English

Together will read two rich and engrossing novels—one from the 19th century, Daniel Deronda by George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans); and one from the mid-20th century, The Heat of the Day by Elizabeth Bowen--with attention to their historical contexts. Goals for the class include: how to read a Big Novel, how to see literature in the light of the times in which it was written, and how to use literature and history to better understand the world today. Eliot's fiction is known for her double-vision: that is, individuals in the grip of ethical dilemmas (of romance, marriage, career, family) who are also operating within the larger forces of History itself. Daniel Deronda is also preoccupied by pressing issues for us today, including gender roles, domestic violence, and racial/ethnic identity. The Heat of the Day unfolds during the London Blitz of WWII, and shares with our current lives a pervasive sense of isolation, danger, and suspicion. We will read from contemporary and scholarly writings about three important historical threads: feminism, Zionism, and community. In addition to writing two papers, students will follow these subjects as they unfold in our world today, in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Manchester Guardian, and other print and online sources.


Course Offered: