ENG 333 Seminar: Major British or American Writer

Douglas L. Patey, T 3:00 PM-4:50 PM

Topic: Evelyn Waugh

The Great Curmudgeon; the odious Mr. Waugh, who affects an ear-trumpet; a reactionary Catholic blasting the follies of the modern world; the funniest novelist in English. In this seminar we’ll read and discuss all the major novels of the twentieth century’s greatest satirist (and, many would argue, prose stylist), along with some examples of the other literary kinds in which he excelled: blasé travel-writing and acid-tongued journalism. We’ll also look at some more recent satires on subjects of Waugh’s interest (Tom Wolfe’s From Bauhaus to Our House), and midway through the term we’ll watch episodes from the Grenada Television dramatization of Brideshead Revisited

It would be extremely helpful for members of the seminar to have some knowledge of the earlier tradition of the English novel: of works like Fielding’s Joseph Andrews, Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Dickens’ Bleak House, Eliot’s Middlemarch, Hardy’s Tess. If anyone wants to do some advance reading for our course, start with Waugh’s first novel, Decline and Fall, and take a look at a biography: the one by Selina Hastings is the best. 

Given how many books we’ll be reading, this will be an expensive course. Online booksellers such as Amazon offer especially good discounts on our texts.  We’ll read Waugh’s novels (Decline and Fall, Vile Bodies, Black Mischief, A Handful of Dust, Scoop, Put Out More Flags, Brideshead Revisted, The Loved One, Helena, and the trilogy Sword of Honour) in the paperback editions published by Back Bay Books. (Older copies may say “Little Brown” rather than “Back Bay”; the editions are the same.)  I’ll also ask that people buy Waugh Abroad: Collected Travel Writing, since Waugh so often travelled abroad, then proceeded to write both a travel book and then a novel based more loosely on his experience.

Twice during the term, each student will pair up with another from the class to lead a discussion of one of our novels (or travel books). Writing will include one shorter (6-8 pp.) and one longer paper (15 pp.).

  Warning: Waugh’s satire is violent and deliberately shocking; it makes a point of offending modern sensibilities. Students should not elect this course unless they have strong stomachs and are willing to entertain viewpoints perhaps far distant from their own.