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Lifelong Learning: Boston

LLS Boston courses are only offered in the fall. Please check back over the summer for information about fall 2019 offerings. 

Fall 2018 Course: Beyond Realism (LLS 184BOS)

Meets Tuesdays, 6:15–8:45 p.m.
Sept. 25–Nov. 20, except Oct. 16
400 Atlantic Avenue, Boston, at Goulston & Storrs

This course will explore some compelling writers who refuse traditional tenets of Western fiction.  Foremost among these tenets are a) psychologically intricate protagonists, b) plots that follow from the nature of the protagonists, and c) a familiar unfolding of events in space and time.  Put otherwise, most fiction makes use of procedures that are broadly predictable—and easily recognizable as such.  Most fiction pursues its own version of “business as usual.” The texts we shall study in “Beyond Realism” do not.  What are they doing differently and why?


Fyodor Dostoevsky, Notes from Underground
Franz Kafka, stories, The Trial
Samuel Beckett, Molloy
Jorge Luis Borges, stories
Gabriel Garcia-Marquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude


1)   The familiar novel (insofar as we can generalize): how does it work?  what does it assume? what are its aims upon its reader?
2)   Social context: to what larger, nonfictional realities do these writers’ experimental moves seem to be responding? 
3)   What is at stake in our writers often choosing to use an unappealing protagonist?
4)   Kafka’s and Beckett’s refusal of familiar moves: how do their experiments most differ from each other?
5)   Science fiction: in what ways do Borges’s stories seem like sci fi?  what (if anything) keeps them from being sci-fi?
6)   Borges and Garcia-Marquez: what South American nonfictional realities impinge most on their work?
7)   Text and world: how do the “games” these writers play with a reader’s textual assumptions seek to revise a reader’s real-world assumptions as well?
8)   “Magic realism” (a phrase inseparable from One Hundred Years of Solitude): does it illuminate our other writers’ ways of going “beyond realism”?  If not, why not?


Philip Weinstein, Alexander Griswold Cummins Professor of Literature Emeritus.  During his years at Swarthmore, Weinstein's teaching focused on modern European, British, and American fiction.  His most recent books include Unknowing: The Work of Modernist Fiction (2005), Becoming Faulkner (2009), and Jonathan Franzen: The Comedy of Rage (2015).  Weinstein previously taught Lifelong Learning courses on Faulkner, Proust, a century of American short stories, and “Black in America.”