ENGL 337 A: The Modern Novel

Meeting Time: 
MW 2:30pm - 4:20pm
* *
Jessica Burstein
Jessica Burstein

Syllabus Description:

Syllabus 3.1 This syllabus is as of 10 November.

Professor Burstein jb2@uw.edu

Monday, Wednesday    2:30 – 4:15 PM   PST : Zoom.  (Synchronic class)

Drop-in office hours: Wednesdays 12-2. https://washington.zoom.us/j/99190438116 I’ll hold a time slot for you, too. If you come in and my camera is not on, I’m still there, and you are not interrupting me. Office hours are for you. Please say “Knock knock” or something equally clever so I know you are there and can turn on my camera. It is suggested but not mandatory that you provide a back-up phone number via email 24 hours with the subject line: "Your last name: phone #"  in advance of Zoom appointments in case the gods decide to toy with us.

If you can’t make Wednesdays, I am also available by appointment.

Email me your phone number if you’d prefer to talk on the phone.


Novels: In order of reading. I strongly recommend hard copy. If you are trying to limit contact surfaces within your household, you can use an electronic book. Don’t grab a transcript/copy randomly off the internet; it will have errors. Also consider getting a used copy; try Mercer Books: http://www.mercerstreetusedbooks.com/

Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian GrayMake sure it has Wilde’s preface, the last line of which is “All art is quite useless.” Dover Thrift Edition, ISBN-13: 978-048627807

Anita Loos, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Liveright. ISBN-13: 978-0871403179

Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway. Mariner ISBN-13: 978-0156628709

Daphne Du Maurier, Rebecca. Harper Paperbacks 978-0380730407

Zadie Smith, Swing Time. 2017. 978-0143111641.


Films. If you are outside of the USA, please make sure these links work for you ahead of time, and let me know if not.

In Fabric. (length: 1 hour and 58 mins.) Dir. Peter Strickland, 2019.

1. Direct link--may or my not work:


2. If not,https://guides.lib.uw.edu/videostream/az Go to to "Kanopy" at the bottom of the list of streaming services, and try typing in "In Fabric". It should take you to a listing where you can "View It".

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Dir. Howard Hawkes, 1953. 1:31. Licensing prohibited our getting it through UW.

1. I will hold a screening on Saturday 24 October 2-4 pm.

2. YouTube: $4 rental: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

3. It’s available for free through the Seattle Public Library system, but you may have to stand in line, so put it on hold now. I’m not going to provide the link here, because you need to get a  Seattle Public Library card first. You are owed one as a UW student. See #2 here: https://guides.lib.uw.edu/videostream

Phantom Thread. Dir. Paul Thomas Anderson, 2017. 2:11. https://alliance-primo.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/permalink/f/kjtuig/CP71334736850001451



Week One

Wednesday 30 August:  Introduction. Meet and greet.


Influence, Imitation, Originality

 Week Two

Monday 5 October: Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray. Read Wilde’s “Preface.”

Wednesday 7 October: Dorian, con’t.  Response paper #1 due


Week Three

Monday 12 October: Dorian, con't.Plus Pater, “Conclusion” to The Renaissance (1873). Scan for “Conclusion,” and read the 5 paragraphs from “To regard all things and principles of things as inconstant modes or fashions” to the end: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/2398/2398-h/2398-h.htm


9 am Wednesday 14 October: Movie notes due.

Wednesday 14 October: In Fabric discussion.

Friday: Appointments possible between 6 am PST and 2 pm: email me and I'll set the Zoom.


Week Four 

Extra office hours  Monday 12-2.

Monday 19 October: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (Loos’s novel) 

Wednesday 21 October: Loos's novel, con't. Response Paper #2 due

Watch the movie version of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. It's on YouTube for $4, and I will hold a free screening Saturday, 24 Oct, 2-4 pm PDT.



Week Five

9 AM Monday  26 October: Movie notes due.

Monday 26 October: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes film and novel discussion con’t.


Wednesday 28 October: Close reading. In-Class Reflection.


Week Six

Monday 2 November: Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway. Please pay attention to the woman Peter Walsh follows in the street; and read for empire too. 

Wednesday 4 November: Mrs. Dalloway, con’t. Response Paper #3 due.


Week Seven

Office hours 12-2 Monday.

Monday 9 November: Mrs. Dalloway, con’t

Wednesday 11 November: Holiday. Start Reading Rebecca.


Week Eight

Monday 16 November: Daphne Du Maurier, Rebecca

Wednesday 18 November: Rebecca, con’t. Response Paper #4 due.


Week Nine

9 am Monday: Movie notes due.

Monday 23 November: film discussion: Phantom Thread.


Wednesday 25 November: Holiday. Start reading Swing Time.



Week Ten

Monday 30 November: Zadie Smith, Swing Time Response Paper #5 due

Wednesday 2 December: Swing Time


Week Eleven

Monday 7 December: Swing Time, con’t.

Wednesday 9 December: Concluding discussion.


Course Requirements


  1. Finish the entire novel before we begin its discussion. Ditto movies.


  1. Response Papers. Due before the start of class, as noted above in “Schedule.”


Being a good reader means being an active reader. On the days indicated you will turn in, on Canvas, a substantive one-page / 500 words-or-so response paper (“RP”) formulated around either a specific question or observation having to do with the text under discussion that day/week.

         Your response paper will receive either a check minus, check, or a check plus. Check minuses mean you should try harder next time (see my comments on where to begin); checks mean you are doing fine; check pluses mean you have moved beyond fine. I tend to be parsimonious with check pluses; don’t panic if you don’t get one—a series of checks is a solid performance, and combined with good paper grades mean you’re doing quite well.  At the end of the quarter, I will assess your performance on the response papers over the arc of the course as a whole.         

            The intellectual purpose of the response papers is twofold: to give you a start in thinking critically and in a focused manner about the material; and to give me a chance to register your impressions and adjust our discussions accordingly.

  • You may formulate your response papers as questions, ones which you begin to consider how to answer, or explain why the question emerges as an important one. In addition to being focused (Avoid questions like “What is the author's intention in using X?"; "What is the deeper meaning of Y?": they’re too big), the question you engage should not be answered readily by a simple yes or no; and indeed you are relieved of the burden of answering the question definitively—but you should begin to answer the question.
  • Think concretely, and stay focused on what the text tells you, not what your impressions are at a general or sweeping level. "How is race presented in this novel?" is impossible to answer in a page (and difficult in a 200-page book). Do ask, "In the scene in which Marlow meets the accountant, is the word "white" used as a racial term, or a chromatic one?" That focuses on a scene, and a word: “white.” Alternatively, you can gather instances of a repeated term or image from across the text.
  • You must use quotations from the text, cited parenthetically with page number, like “this” (42). The point is to keep you "close" to the text; don't speculate, engage in generalizations, or drift into hypothetical propositions or your own alternative plots--they're endlessly charming, but none of them will help you focus on what is already there in the prose. Occasionally, in order to open discussion, you may be asked to present (verbally) your response paper to the class.
  • Proofread. Style matters. See “Marginal Comments” in “files.” You will receive an automatic check minus for basic errors like comma splices and fragments. Write your RP,  walk away, then come back to it and read it as an editor--with fresh eyes.
  • Do not use first person and avoid reference to “the reader.” This will force you to focus on the text. (“I love how X happens” will become “X is an important issue because [some reason more specific than your love for it: the way it mattered to the text, the way it was reversed later, etc.].”)
  • I may announce specific directions for the next response paper. If you turn in a response paper that does not respond to that announcement, it will count as a zero.
  • Response papers are always due before the beginning of class, at 2:30. Late ones will be graded down, and won’t be accepted after 3 days unless you have made arrangements with me otherwise. One of the points is to prepare you (and me) for subsequent discussion and guide what we focus on. If you request, however, I will still provide comments on it. You need to do the first response paper on The Picture of Dorian Gray, but can skip one after that and still get a 4.0 in the class.


  1. Movie notes. Take them both during the film and immediately afterwards: sit down for 10 solid minutes. You can take them by hand, photograph them, and upload them to Canvas. I want you to keep track of major characters, scenes/lines that catch you, outfits/the role of costume, and connections to the novel with which the film is paired. I will be checking them out to see what trends catch the class, so they have to be turned in on time. These are graded on a complete/incomplete basis.


  1. Grading.

Participation: 50%: asking in-class questions, responding to others’ points in discussions, turning in in-class quizzes; turning in movie notes. Substantive office hours conversations are also a form of participation.


Response Papers: 50%.


This syllabus is subject to change. I will announce any changes during our in-person sessions, and notify the class via email as well. I will also update the syllabus as it appears on the Canvas course web site. You are responsible for keeping up with these modifications to our schedule.


If you require accommodation owing to a disability, contact the Disabilities Resources for Students Office (DRS) in Schmitz Hall 448 (206-548-8924; uwdss@u.washington.edu) or the Disabilities Services Office (DSO) at dso@u.washington.edu. It is your responsibility to notify me in writing and in advance of any accommodations to be arranged by either the DSO or DRS office and—should forms be involved—to deliver those to me, with time enough to allow for us to arrive at a mutual understanding of the means by which those accommodations are best met.


“Washington state law requires that UW develop a policy for accommodation of student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities. The UW’s policy, including more information about how to request an accommodation, is available at Religious Accommodations Policy (https://registrar.washington.edu/staffandfaculty/religious-accommodations-policy/) (Links to an external site.). Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form (https://registrar.washington.edu/students/religious-accommodations-request/) (Links to an external site.).”

The Department of English at the University of Washington acknowledges that our university is located on the shared lands and waters of the Coast Salish peoples. We aspire to be a place where human rights are respected and where any of us can seek support. This includes people of all ethnicities, faiths, gender identities, national and indigenous origins, political views, and citizenship status; nontheists; LGBQTIA+; those with disabilities; veterans; and anyone who has been targeted, abused, or disenfranchised.

Please contact me individually if unforeseen events create undue hardship in terms of your work for this class. I am aware these are demanding times.



Catalog Description: 
Explores the novel in English from the first half of the twentieth century. May include such writers as Virginia Woolf, D.H. Lawrence, Gertrude Stein, E.M. Forster, Claude McKay, Elizabeth Bowen, Raja Rao, William Faulkner, Jean Rhys, and Edith Wharton. Includes history and changing aesthetics of the novel as form, alongside the sociohistorical context.
GE Requirements: 
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Last updated: 
June 28, 2020 - 10:50pm