SCANDINAVIAN R5B, Section 2: The Machiavellian Narrative

TuTh 8-9:30 , 105 Dwinelle. Instructor: Instructor TBA

Units: 4

This course satisfies the second half or the “B” portion of the Reading and Composition requirement.

The purpose of this course is to familiarize students with the forms and mechanics of academic writing. As a guiding theme, we will read, analyze, and respond to short stories and novels that toy with our desire to understand characters’ true motivations—these are known as Machiavellian narratives, named after the Italian political theorist notorious for advocating trickery, subterfuge, and fear-mongering as effective methods of rule.

The power of Machiavellian narratives will be explored through Scandinavian texts, including Victoria Benedictsson’s “From the Darkness,” St. St. Blicher’s “Tardy Awakening,” Knut Hamsun’s Hunger, Hjalmar Söderberg’s Doctor Glas, and Pär Lagerkvist’s The Dwarf. While we may not be accustomed to thinking too much about a story’s narrator as a character, Machiavellian narratives raise the question of how much we can trust a story’s narrator. How do we know what the narrator tells us is true? Does the narrator have an interest in telling us certain things but not others about the characters in the novel? What does the narrator think of the reader listening to his or her tale? By raising these questions, students will become more adept at identifying manipulative narratorial moves, discerning and analyzing the power constellations governing fiction, and, most importantly, developing the analytical skills necessary to becoming successful academic writers.


 Hamsun, Knut. Hunger. Trans. Robert Bly. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1998. ISBN-13: 978-0374525286

 Lagerkvist, Pär. The Dwarf. Trans. Alexandra Dick. Hill and Wang, 1958. ISBN-13: 978-0374521356

Söderberg, Hjalmar. Doctor Glas. Trans. Paul Bitten Austin. Anchor, 2002. ISBN-13: 978-0385722674

*Additional readings will be made available in a course reader or bCourses.

 Prerequisites:  Successful completion of the first half or “A” portion of the Reading and Composition requirement.  Students may not enroll nor attend R1B/R5B courses without completing this prerequisite.