Last week I wrapped up my third audio lecture series from The Teaching Company. This one was entitled "The English Novel", and it traced the history, not just of the great works themselves, but also of the novel form itself as found in English literature. It is a great back-up to the "Classics of British Literature" series that I finished back in April.
Our professor for this course is Dr. Timothy Spurgin, the Bonnie Glidden Buchanan Professor of English Literature and Associate Professor of English at Lawrence University. Though perhaps not quite as witty and conversational as Professor Sutherland from "COBL", his lecturing style is easy to listen to, follow, and comprehend.
This series comprises of 24 lectures tracing the evolution of the English novel from its earliest beginnings of Fielding and Richardson to its culmination in Joyce and Woolf. Each lecture is a fantastic blend of biographical info on the author, plots and themes from the story, and the theory of the novel form. Though I was familiar with most of the authors and stories, I learned a lot through this course. It helped me recognize patterns throughout the English novel tradition ( it's obsession with courtship and marriage, and it's penchant for "comedic" endings), and learn to draw parallels between what we are reading in the novel and what was happening in the world at the time. I also really loved the part where Dr. Spurgin discusses how the rise in translations of foreign literature forever changed the English novel tradition.
If you love English novels, or like learning the history and theory of literature, I would definitely recommend this course. It is enjoyable and informative. I must warn you, however, your "to read" list will grow by leaps and bounds!