Lyricism & the Novel

Just as the word “lyric” has come to mean any short poem expressing the poet’s thoughts and feelings, so characteristics of lyric poetry have come to permeate the prose style and conception of the novel of some modernist and postmodernist writers. Electing Lawrence Sterne’s A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy and Thomas De Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium-Eater as precursors and continuing with Virginia Woolf, Djuna Barnes, Vladimir Nabokov, Joan Didion, and Michael Ondaatje, we will look at these writers’ novelistic techniques, analyzing their treatment of time and space, of narrative and character, much as their stylistic, textural, and thematic emphases, investigating the startling innovations arising from the encounter of lyricism with the novel. We will also read short selections of pertinent theoretical writings on the lyric from Mill, Lukács, Adorno, and De Man.