The novel is a radically capacious and always evolving genre, open to the full range of world literature, across periods and locations. This seminar examines the novel and its various, overlapping functions as aesthetic object, cultural artifact, historical text, and conceptual resource. Through comparative and multidisciplinary inquiry, we approach the novel from a wide range of vantage points.

Upcoming Events

Kinohi Nishikawa, Princeton University
Novel Design: Fran Ross’s Oreo and the Signs of the City
Tuesday, February 26, 2019 - 6:00pm
Room 133, Barker Center


Jesse McCarthy
Harvard University


Fran Ross published one book in her lifetime, and it fell into obscurity almost as soon as it appeared. But Oreo (1974) has enjoyed something of a revival through its contemporary reprintings. With the help of laudatory prefaces by Danzy Senna (US edition) and Marlon James (UK edition), the new Oreo has confirmed Ross’s status as a trailblazer of literary satire. Yet while critics rush to give Ross her due, the fact that she designed her own book remains lost to history. This paper explains why Ross’s choices in typeface, typography, and illustration are critical to any reading of Oreo. In so doing, it makes a broader case for understanding the development of black postmodern satire in the 1970s as coextensive with novelists’ practical experiments in book design.

Cosponsored by the History of the Book seminar

Rachel Ablow, University at Buffalo
Believing in Romola
Thursday, April 4, 2019 - 5:00pm
Room 114, Barker Center

Cosponsored with the Nineteenth-Century Graduate Colloquium

Timothy Bewes, Brown University
Marilyn Reizbaum, Bowdoin College
Kelly Rich, Harvard University
James Wood, Harvard University
Muriel Spark @ 101: A Roundtable
Tuesday, April 23, 2019 - 6:00pm
Room 133, Barker Center

Past Events 2018 - 19

Nicholas Watson, Harvard University
Novelty: Visionary Writing and the Reality Effect
Christina Lupton, University of Warwick
Stuart Sherman, Fordham University
Time, Media, the Eighteenth-Century Novel
David Hollingshead, Princeton University
Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert, Vassar College
Susan Scott Parrish, University of Michigan
Min Hyoung Song, Boston College
Roundtable on Environment and the Novel

Past Events 2017 - 18

Adela Pinch, University of Michigan
The Story of O.: Margaret Oliphant and Anti-Metalepsis
David Alworth​, Harvard University
Paratextual Art​
Rachel Buurma, Swarthmore College
Petra McGillen, Dartmouth College
Simon Reader, City University of New York
The Novel and its Working Methods: A Workshop
Julia Prewitt Brown, Boston University
Mary Favret, Johns Hopkins University
Sonia Hofkosh, Tufts University
Claudia Johnson, Princeton University
Peter Sabor, McGill University
Jane Austen: 200 Years On
Michael Gorra, Smith College
Criticism as Narrative: Audience, Public Scholarship, and the Biography of a Book
The Novel and Media

Past Events 2016 - 17

Joseph Slaughter, Columbia University
State Secrets, Small Wars, Smaller Novels
Maya Jasanoff, Harvard University
“Fiction is History, Human History, Or It Is Nothing": A Historian Reads Joseph Conrad
“New Work in Novel Studies”: A Symposium for New Researchers
Wendy Anne Lee, New York University
Sense and Sensibility, Causation and Contiguity: Thinking through Relation in Austen and Hume
Homi Bhabha, Harvard University
Intimations of the Afterlife
Jennifer Fleissner, Indiana University
Vitalizing the Bildungsroman
Numbers in the Novel: A Roundtable

Past Events 2015 - 16

Bill Brown, University of Chicago
Re-Assemblage (Theory, Practice, Novel Form)
Elaine Freedgood, New York University
How the Victorian Novel Got Realistic (in a French Way), Reactionary and Great
Peter Mendelsund, Knopf Publishing Group
The Art of the Book Cover
New Work in Novel Studies Symposium
Thomas Pavel, University of Chicago
What Do Novels Speak About?
Description in the Novel