HENKE2303U English - Free topic C: What Novels Know

Volume 2023/2024



This course will explore the different ways in which fiction can feel true.  We’ll be reading a collection of equally gripping but very different British and American fiction.  In doing so, we’ll be asking:  does trueness involves fidelity to real events?  Are time and space in novels like those in real life?  Is a novel written in the third person less true than a first person fiction?  This course will be organized into two parts, one focusing on first person fiction that draws on personal experience for its feeling of truth.  Here we will read novels by recent authors including Ben Lerner, Rachel Cusk, Lisa Halliday, and Sally Rooney.  The second part will focus on fictions that describe things less accessible – historical or hypothetical worlds. In this section, we’ll read fiction by writers like Hilary Mantel, Susannah Clarke, and Octavia Butler, that try to access what cannot be accessed: past experiences that were never recorded, possible futures, and fantastical realms that might live inside the human mind itself. Secondary readings will include classic works on mimesis (ie, Auerbach, Lucaks) and more recent theories of the novel (ie, Bewes, Currie, Felski, Wiegman).

Sally Rooney, Beautiful World Where Are You

Ben Lerner, The Topeka School

Lisa Halliday, Asymmetry

Rachel Cusk, Outline

Hilary Mantel, Bring Up the Bodies

Susannah Clarke, Piranesi

Octavia Butler, The Parable of the Sower


Students should be prepared to read fairly long novels in English.  Those who prefer audio-reading are welcome.

Classes will emphasize student involvement and discussion.
This course only leads to exams Free Topic 1, Free Topic 2 and Free Topic 3.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 56
  • Preparation
  • 353,5
  • Total
  • 409,5
Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)
Type of assessment
Portfolio, A joint portfolio uploaded in digital exam: Deadline January 11th 2024
Type of assessment details
Students will submit 2 papers and do one oral presentation during the term. First paper of 7 pages will be due in week 6; second paper of 12 pages in week 12. The slides from the oral presentation will count for 2-6 pages. The portfolio will combine all of these elements.
Exam registration requirements

This course only leads to exams Free Topic 1, Free Topic 2 and Free Topic 3.

Criteria for exam assesment