Class Meeting Times: T/Th 2:30-3:20 (132 Oelman)
Instructor: Dr. Crystal B. Lake (
Office hours: make an appointment (available T/Th 12:45-1:45 & Th 3:30-4:45)
Twitter: @theinspirelab
Instagram: the.inspire.lab
Course Schedule

Course Description: This course introduces students to the “rise of the novel” by beginning with the question: What is a novel, anyway? Contemporary readers tend to the take the category of the novel for granted, sometimes even comically using the term “novel” to refer to all kinds (or even every kind) of writing. Yet although the novel dominates our contemporary literary landscape, it stands as a relatively new development in literary history.

Since the publication of Ian Watt’s influential Rise of the Novel in 1957, most critics agree that the novel was born in eighteenth-century England when a new prose style struggled to define itself as something related to but nevertheless distinct from other genres of writing; more specifically, the new (or novel) way of writing attempted to walk a careful line between facts and fancy. On the one hand, novel-writers tried to make their work believable and realistic by borrowing the techniques of historians, biographers, and journalists; on the other hand, though, novel-writers also aimed to thrill their readers’ imagination by borrowing the techniques of fabulists and romancers.

Students in this course will read four early novels that are variously engaged with the middle ground between what was real and what was pure fantasy in order to consider how novels depend upon – as well as distinguish themselves from – other types of writing. We will also read four companion novels from the last decade in order to consider how far the novel has, in fact, risen above the formal as well as historical contexts that shaped its development in the 1700s.

Students in an ENG 4000-level course will also:

  • engage a focused topic in literary study. Such a topic might be historical (the sixties), thematic (the body, the country house), genre-based (Renaissance tragedies, feminist science fiction, American poetry, network fiction), or author-based (Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf, Nathaniel Hawthorne),
  • engage critical questions raised about these texts made by literary scholars in peer-reviewed journals and similar contexts,
  • undertake original research in response to the topic,
  • write one or more substantial literary-critical essays in response to the topic

Additionally, this course is an Integrated Writing Course. Students who take this course produce writing that

  • demonstrates their understanding of course content,
  • is appropriate for the audience and purpose of a particular writing task,
  • demonstrates the degree of mastery of disciplinary writing conventions appropriate to the course (including documentation conventions), and shows competency in standard edited American English.

Grading Criteria:
Class Participation: 15%
Pop Quizzes: 15%
Final Project Proposal: 15%
Reading Responses: 25% (15% assessed ongoing; 10% assessed for final portfolio)
Final Project with 500-Word Introductory Essay: 30%

Required Texts: listed in the order we will read them & with info re: page length & expected TTR: time necessary to read in hours:minutes. An * = specific edition required so that we’re all on the same page, reading the same book. Click here to find out more about why these editions are required and what to expect when it comes to the assigned readings in this class.

Cheryl L. Nixon, ed. Novel Definitions
approximately 5-10 pages per week / TTR: 0:10-0:15 every week
Horace Walpole, The Castle of Otranto (1764)*
115 pages / 7 days @ 16-17 pages per day
TTR: 2:55 @ 25 minutes per day / start page: 5
Samantha Hunt, Mr. Splitfoot (2016)
339 pages / 12 days @ 28-29 pages per day
TTR: 6:00 @ 30 minutes per day
Charlotte Lennox, The Female Quixote * (1752)
384 pages / 14 days @ 27-28 pages per day
TTR 9:20 @ 40 minutes per day
Jeffrey Eugenides, The Marriage Plot (2011)
417 pages / 14 days @ 29-30 pages per day
TTR 8:10 @ 35 minutes per day
Aphra Behn, Oroonoko* (1688)
65 pages / 7 days @ 9-10 pages per day
TTR: 1:30 @ 15 minutes per day
Colson Whitehead, The Underground Railroad (2016)
322 pages / 14 days @ 23 pages per day
TTR 5:50 @ 25 minutes per day
Daniel Defoe, Roxana(1724)
288 pages / 14 days @ 20-21 pages per day
TTR 7:00 @ 30 minutes per day / start page: 39
Elizabeth Strout, Amy and Isabelle
320 pages / 14 days @ 22-23 pages per day
TTR 5:50 @ 25 minutes per day

Please note that texts in this course may contain depictions of graphic violence and sex as well as engage political opinions with which you may strongly disagree. There are no alternative texts available for study in this course. If you anticipate having difficulty reading, discussing, or writing about assigned texts, for whatever reason, please make an appointment to talk with me so that we can go over some strategies together that might help you work with the material or discuss whether or not this course is a good fit for your needs at this time.

Course Policies:

Attendance: Attendance is required for this course, and I begin taking official attendance on the first day of the second week of class. You may miss 3 classes without penalty; after the third absence, however, your grade will be lowered according to the percentage of the class you have completed by attending. For example, if you miss 4 classes out of our 27 scheduled sessions, you have attended 85% of the course, and you can expect to see a 15% deduction from your final grade that takes into account the number of classes you have missed; this means that a student who has missed four classes and who completes the course with a grade of 92%/A, will receive 85% of that grade for a final grade of: 78%/C. Your participation grade will also suffer. If you have an emergency that will keep you from attending class, please let me know as soon as possible. I can’t promise that I will accommodate you, but I will be able to help you get in touch with Student Services who can help you to complete this and the other courses that will have been affected by your emergency. Please note, however, I will do this only in the direst of circumstances (a death in the family, a major illness requiring hospitalization, etc).

Class Ethos: This course emulates professional climates in order to prepare you for work outside of the college classroom. Please approach your relationship with your professor, your peers, and your readings and assignments as if you were in a professional setting. You might imagine, for example, that class sessions are like business meetings where we meet to establish facts and best practices, brainstorm ideas, conduct critical conversations, learn to navigate rules and procedures, and strategize about fulfilling project goals. You should come to class sessions prepared, then, to offer productive comments on assigned readings, respond to your professor and peer’s ideas with thoughtfulness and respect, and ask questions that are meaningful. You should avoid inviting speculation about your work ethic that will inevitably arise if you seem distracted by electronic devices like cell phones or laptops, if you seem unprepared, if your personal life consistently interferes with your work, if you cannot stay on task during small-ground activities, and if you are unable to meet deadlines. Likewise, you should undertake work for the course – ranging from assigned readings to in-class activities to written assignments – as if you were conducting that work in a professional environment where your performance will be evaluated and decisions about promotions will be based on the competencies and professionalism you demonstrate.

Communications with Instructor (email, phone, office hours): I try to respond to emails in a timely manner, but it may take me up to 48 hours to respond to your email, and you should plan accordingly. Before you email me, however, please take a moment to see if your question(s) might be answered by reviewing the syllabus and other course materials, or even by doing a Google search for your question. Unless otherwise noted in the syllabus or assignment sheet, I do not accept assignments via email.

Additionally, I ask that you please do not email me regarding your attendance – except in the case of an emergency that will require me to help you get in touch with Student Services. In other words, you do not need to alert me to any and every absence; you should instead contact a classmate and/or consult the website to find out what you may have missed. Sometimes, however, important emails do end up in my spam folder. If you sent an email that required a response and did not receive one in 48 hours, be sure to ask me before or after the next class I received your email so that we can make sure the lines of communication between us are open. It is a good idea to conduct your email correspondence with me and your other instructors in a professional manner; use a conventional, formal letter address (Dear Dr. or Professor….), and make sure that you include your full name so that I know who you are. Finally, you are responsible for keeping track of your attendance and your grades in the course; I do not tally or calculate these until the end of the semester.

Turning in Work: Work is due at the time and day and in the format as stated on the course schedule or assignment page. Technological difficulties such as a broken printer, a failed hard drive, or a disrupted internet connection are not acceptable excuses for late work. I recommend that you complete and print work that must be turned in on paper at least 24 hours before the deadline and that you use cloud storage to save your work. Use a stapler if your work on paper is more than one page.

I do not accept late work either in hard copy or via email, and I only make exceptions to this policy for documented emergencies requiring intervention from Student Services (a death in your immediate family, a serious illness requiring hospitalization).

Academic Integrity: Here is WSU’s academic integrity policy. Assignments submitted by students that violate this policy will automatically be reported and assigned a grade of 0.

Students with Disabilities: If you anticipate needing accommodation for a disability in this course, please register with the Office of Disability Services and plan to meet with me during the first week of classes to talk about how we can work together to ensure your success in the course.

 Social Media Policy: I may share examples of student work on both the website as well as on Inspire Lab’s social media accounts (listed above). I will only tag you or include an image of your face or person with your permission. If you are concerned about your work appearing publically on social media sites where it may be shared by others, please let me know. Please also treat the social media and online activities of this course in your own social media and online engagement with a similar kind of care.

Policy on Recordings/Dissemination: Please do not make audio or visual recordings of class lectures, discussions, or activities; with permission and on a case by case basis, you may take pictures of notes on the board as well as share course materials and coursework online.