English 159 - Winter, 2017

Topics in the Novel

    Topic: Portraits of the Artist: Writers on their Aesthetic Development

Class Information

Instructor: Ziser, Michael
CRN: 22897
Time: TR 1:40-3:00
Location: 167 Olson


    Strange things happen when artists try to reflect on their own or somebody else’s personal aesthetic development: poets turn memoirists, novelists transmogrify into theorists, painters become the distorted subjects of verbal portraiture, and the whole mystery of artistic inspiration and labor get swirled together into a panorama that can’t help but seem both painfully specific and desperately universal. In this medium-sized discussion-based class we will read a wide variety of primary texts from the classical period to the present day that try to communicate the essences and the accidentals of creativity. Our focus will be on the individual texts, but we will also spend some time reading about the history, psychology, and economics of the arts.



    Attendance and participation 10%
    Weekly short writing 25%
    Short paper 15%
    Final exam 15%
    Final paper 35%


    The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Briggs, Rainer Maria Rilke
    Ask the Dust, John Fante
    The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath
    The Prelude, William Wordsworth
    Blankets, Craig Thompson
    Dust Tracks on a Road, Zora Neale Hurston
    Leaving the Atocha Station, Ben Lerner
    The Song of the Lark, Willa Cather
    Martin Eden, Jack London
    Portrait of the Artist of a Young Man, James Joyce