ENGL379D - The Modern Adventure Novel: 1912-1959
Syllabus:
Section(s):
0101 - Dirda, Michael

In this course, a companion to last spring’s “The Classic Adventure Novel: 1885-1915,” we will enjoy and discuss a dozen of the touchstones of modern fantasy, horror, mystery and romance.  Be warned: There’s a lot of reading in this course but—with two or three exceptions—all the books are relatively short. Participation in class discussion is essential. The tentative bibliography includes the following novels: Edgar Rice Burroughs, A Princess of Mars (1912); Rafael Sabatini, Captain Blood (1922); P.C. Wren, Beau Geste (1924); Lord Dunsany, The King of Elfland’s Daughter (1924); Georgette Heyer, These Old Shades (1928); Dashiell Hammett, Red Harvest (1929); H.P. Lovecraft, At the Mountains Of Madness (1936); Eric Ambler, A Coffin for Dimitrios (1939); Cornell Woorich, Rendezvous in Black (1948); Jack Schaefer, Shane (1949); Alfred Bester, The Stars My Destination (1956); Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House (1959); Chester Himes, The Real Cool Killers (1959).

You must bring each week's book along to class and come prepared to talk about it. Each student will lead one class discussion during the semester.  In talking about these books, we will consider a variety of questions, from the stylistic to the sociological: What is an adventure novel?  Do we read these books differently from novels of domestic realism or novels of character?  Are these “boys’ books”? What techniques do these authors use to create suspense or excitement?  What makes a hero? A heroine? A villain? Why have these books persisted in our collective imaginations? What in them is archetypal?  In what way did each help shape its genre?  In reading each novel, what passages struck you as particularly beautiful or meaningful?  Did you like the book? Why or why not? Grades will be arrived at by the instructor’s judgment of each student's preparedness for and contributions to class discussion (25 percent),  from the quality of two 1,500-word essays (25 percent each), and from  a final exam (25 percent).