The novel has been at the core of lifelong learning for generations of students, and so I am delighted that this year’s Shasha Seminar will focus on the genre. Amy Bloom, who directs the Shapiro Creative Writing Center, is leading the event, which will take place on campus April 5-6. “The Novel is not only the form of fiction I love and know best,” she writes, “but also a form that is still enormously popular and evolving with readers, whether they are e-readers, fans of the turning page or creators and readers of novels that emerge Tweet by Tweet. This will be a star-studded feast for readers and writers, a combination of pleasure, intellectual stimulation, with provocative questions, sublime readings and some unexpected answers.” Amy’s remarkable new novel, Lucky Us, is coming out this summer, and she has gathered together a most impressive group of authors to participate in the program.
A recent Philip Roth (no relation) interview in The New York Times underscored some crucial aspects of the genre. I particularly liked this: “The thought of the novel is embodied in the moral focus of the novel. The tool with which the novelist thinks is the scrupulosity of his style. Here, in all this, lies whatever magnitude his thought may have.”
In my Modern and Post-Modern course, students will soon have the pleasure of reading Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse, and in the same class they’ve already read Flaubert’s Madame Bovary. These novels are among a dozen or so I’ve taught over the years in my intellectual history classes, and the political, moral and aesthetic dimensions of the works have been key to my thinking about a wide range of issues. The Shasha Seminar will provide plenty to consider in relation to fantasy, history, politics, identity, desire and aesthetics…. It surely will be a feast for readers and writers!
The Shasha Seminar on The Novel begins Saturday, April 5, 2014 with a reception lunch. Some sessions are open and free for students, and you can find out more about the event here.