Book Report

Instructions: The Scholarly Book Report asks you to summarize, analyze connect, critique, and lead discussion about your selected text.  This is not a book review, but a structured assignment that requires you to dissect the text in a very specific way.  Please include all of the following in order, using the indicated headings.

  1. Thesis of the work: 1-3 sentence overview of the text’s main argument.
  2. Methodological/theoretical approach(es):  E.g.,  book history, new historicist, cultural studies, post-colonialist, psychoanalysis, feminist, Marxist, Foucauldian, poststructuralist, etc.  The author may or may not be explicit about this. You may need to read between the lines: Is this person well known in any specific camp?  What works does he/she cite?  Is there a theoretical neighborhood you can identify? Do some research if necessary, talk to me if you have problems, but in the end, don’t sweat it if you’re not sure. (1-2 sentences up to one short paragraph)
  3. Contribution: How does this work contribute to and depart from other theories of the novel?  Pay attention to how the author marks the territory to be explored.  This is usually stated in the introduction, but sometimes may be only implicit.  Again, look to footnotes and other paratextual material. (one paragraph).  
  4. Chapter Summaries:  Provide an overview of the main ideas of each chapter, filling in with the most interesting or important details.  Be sure to describe the evidence the author uses to support his/her claims, and include the ramifications of the author’s main ideas. (Each chapter summary should be one medium to longish paragraph.)
  5. Connections/Applications/Extensions:  How does this novel this work apply to the novels and criticism we’ve read, and where does it fit within the framework of our class’s discussions, themes, theories, etc.  How does it extend, complicate or reframe what we’ve learned so far?  Are there ways to apply the ideas beyond the author’s stated goals, or ramifications of the work not directly addressed?  You may also wish to think about how it connects to other classes or works you’ve read/studied, or how it may help you with future work.   (1-2 paragraphs)
  6. Strengths and Weaknesses:  Reflect on what is especially useful about this work.  That is, how does it help us understand and articulate the eighteenth-century (or beyond) novel and culture in new and interesting ways?  What were its most exciting insights or contributions? Then describe its limiting assumptions (explicit or implicit), blind spots or oversights.  (This last is especially hard—you may wish to read some published book reviews of other works to get the hang of how to walk the line between purely celebrating a work and unfairly trashing it.) (1-2 paragraphs)
  7. Questions? What confused or puzzled you?  Was there anything you just didn’t get? What did this book leave you wondering about?  What do you wish you knew more about? (1-2 sentences up to one short paragraph)

On your presentation day: Post on your blog in lieu of a regular post. Bring handouts if necessary.  You should be prepared to spend at least ten minutes in class teaching us about your work, and while you may use your printed paper as reference, you should not read it.  Pay special attention to how the work might help us gain entry into the novels under discussion on the day you present.  Reports may not go longer than 15 minutes before questions–this will be strictly enforced. For evaluation purposes, send me a copy by email.

Report Books: Before choosing from the list below, peruse the book description, table of contents, and index carefully using Google Books or Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature.  Try to choose a work that will help you in current or future study.  Many books contain works not assigned in this class, and you will want to pick the book that discusses works familiar to you, at least as much as possible.  Also, some books skew towards either the 17th or 19th centuries, so you may wish to choose according to your period of interest or study.  If the period is not helpful, the method or theory might be. The older works included on this list are considered classics in the field, important groundbreaking works that most scholars in the field know, even if their approaches or conclusions might now be considered dated. An asterisk indicates a work that does not really discuss specific novels per se, but provides applicable historical or theoretical overviews. Books may have to be ordered by MelCat or WILD, so find them early.

  • Nancy Armstrong, Desire and Domestic Fiction: A Political History of the Novel  (Oxford, 1990)
  • Srinivas Aravamudan, Tropicopolitans: Colonialism and Agency (Duke, 1999)
  • M.M. Bakhtin, The Dialogic Imagination (Texas, 1981)
  • Janine Barchas, Graphic Design, Print Culture and the Eighteenth-Century Novel  (Cambridge, 2003)
  • Lennard Davis, Factual Fictions: The Origins of the English Novel (Columbia, 1983)
  • Laura Doyle, Freedom’s Empire: Race and the Rise of the Novel in Atlantic Modernity, 1640-1940 (Duke, 2008)
  • Catherine Gallagher, Nobody’s Story The Vanishing Acts of Women Writers in the Marketplace, 1670-1820 (California, 1995)
  • Paul Hunter, Before Novels: The Cultural Contexts of Eighteenth Century English Fiction (Norton, 1990)
  • Thomas Keymer and Peter Sabor, ‘Pamela’ in the Marketplace: Literary Controversy and Print Culture in Eighteenth-Century Britain and Ireland (Cambridge, 2006)
  • Deidre Lynch, The Economy of Character: Novels, Market Culture, and the Business of Inner Meaning (Chicago, 1998)
  • Julie Park, The Self and It: Novel Objects in Eighteenth-Century England (Stanford UP, 2009)
  • James Raven, The Business of Books: Booksellers and the English Book Trade (pgs 82-319 only) (Yale, 2007)
  • Srividhya Swaminathan, Debating the Slave Trade: Rhetoric of British National Identity, 1759-1815 (Ashgate, 2009)
  • Blakey Vermeule, Why Do We Care about Literary Characters?  (Johns Hopkins, 2009)
  • Cynthia Sundberg Wall, The Prose of Things: Transformations of Description in the Eighteenth Century (Chicago, 2006)
  • William B. Warner, Licensing Entertainment: The Elevation of Novel Reading in Britain, 1684-1750  (California, 1998)
  • Ian Watt, The Rise of the Novel: Studies in Defoe, Richardson and Fielding (California, 1957)

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