Prose Poetics: Daniel Defoe, Jonathan Swift and the Quest for Reality Mr. Ron Ben-Tovim
The road to discovering the real world, and unearthing the authentic that lies beyond the illusionary is, in our modern understanding of those terms, to a great extent just that: a road. It is a journey necessitating one leaves his comfort zone, his home, in search of authenticity that the home cannot provide.
Daniel Defoe and Jonathan Swift, two of the major novelists of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century, not only aided in the creation of a new form of literature, the novel, but also suffused that form with a notion of realism – ostensibly, an attempt to describe reality "better." However, as this course will question, despite the seeming expectation for a realistic form, the work of these two writers also engages both in the affirmation of this new attitude in literature, as well as a severe subversion of that attitude. Standing at the epicenter of the shift into long-form prose literature, both writers compose travel narratives about men who attempt, with mixing results, to describe the world they see.
Incorporating theoretical and philosophical texts, the course will center on the bond between the prose form of these novels and the tacit expectation for an accurate depiction of reality. Above all, the course will attempt to answer the question: What is the relation between literary representation and reality which these works set up, and in what ways does that relation change, or stays the same, in the novels of these two seminal prose fiction writers.
The primary texts for the course will include Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe and Moll Flanders and Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels, along with some of his shorter works.
The course grade includes active participation, one midterm paper, and a final test.