ENG4425 – Reading Joseph Conrad and W. G. Sebald: Text and Context

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

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Course content

This course will explore a selection of narratives written by two of the most original authors of their generations. A key figure in British and European modernism, Joseph Conrad (1857-1924) has over the last couple of decades become a major reference in postcolonial and cultural studies. Frequently described as late modern, the narratives of W. G. Sebald (1944-2001) are widely recognized as significant contributions not only to contemporary British and European literature, but also to other artistic forms such as photography and film, and to variants of non-fiction such as testimony and travel writing.

Exploring the narrative strategies of Conrad and Sebald, the seminar will pay particular attention to problems and artistic features linked to, and forged through, questions of exile, identity, distance, empathy, memory, loss, violence, solidarity, and uses and abuses of power. The seminar starts from the premiss that the aesthetics and ethics of Conrad and Sebald’s narratives are closely linked. The word “ethics” is here closely linked to “values” (in the plural): ethics indicates the values aesthetically presented in Conrad and Sebald’s narratives. These values may be different both in kind and scope, thus often creating tensions or conflicts related to, and expressed through, the varying views, actions and attitudes of the texts’ characters and narrators. In the narratives of Conrad and Sebald, ethics tends to assume the form of questions – questions asked by the author via the different agents of a written narrative, and questions asked by the reader about the written narrative. That such questions can reveal how limited our perspective is, thus potentially improving our understanding of other human beings’ perspectives and values, is demonstrated by the narratives read and discussed in the seminar.

Learning outcome

After completing this course, you:

  • Have acquired knowledge of the narrative form and thematic concerns of some of the most significant narratives written by Joseph Conrad and W. G. Sebald
  • Understand how important aspects of the two authors’ biographies and writings are linked to each other
  • Can identify and respond to ethical questions asked in, and by, the narratives under consideration
  • Have improved your knowledge of key texts written by two of the most influential and widely discussed British writers of their generations
  • Understand better how narratives can contribute to the production of history and culture

Admission

Students who are admitted to study programmes at UiO must each semester register which courses and exams they wish to sign up for in Studentweb.

If you are not already enrolled as a student at UiO, please see our information about admission requirements and procedures.

Teaching

Seminar, two hours per week for 12 weeks, 24 hours in all.

Obligatory activity:

  • The course has an obligatory submission of a first draft of the term paper within a set date.

All obligatory activities must be approved in the same semester. All obligatory assignments are only valid the semester you attend the course.

Examination

The assessment of the course is based on a term paper of 12-15 pages.

Explanations and appeals

Resit an examination

Withdrawal from an examination

A term paper or equivalent that is passed may not be resubmitted in revised form.

If you withdraw from the exam after the deadline, this will be counted as an examination attempt.

Special examination arrangements

Application form, deadline and requirements for special examination arrangements.

Facts about this course

Credits

10

Level

Master

Teaching

Autumn 2019

Examination

Autumn 2019

Teaching language

English