NPA Literature Seminar Program

Your goal in the Literature Seminar series should be to absorb the content of the novels as a means to appropriating the significance of human life more fully. You are required to keep a journal as you read each novel. The journal is intended as a record of your reflections upon the events and ideas in the text. It should reflect your thinking about what you take to be the most important issues in the novel. Keep in mind that the books that have been selected are considered to be classics because the more you think about them, the more there is to think about.

It is not necessary, nor is it expected, that you analyze these novels as you would in an English class in terms of aspects such as plot development, narrative style, voice, historical context, etc. Instead, for the Literature Seminar, you should seek to engage directly with the characters, events, and ideas in the novel you are reading.

Literature Seminar grades will be based upon your journal (40%), a reading exam (30%), and seminar performance (30%). Students will turn in their book and journal for review prior to taking the Literature Seminar reading exam. Consulting summaries such as CliffsNotes, SparkNotes, and the like, is strongly discouraged.

The requirements for the journal are as follows:

  1. You must write a minimum of 6 entries of approximately 1 page. All entries must be handwritten. Each entry must refer to specific page numbers in the text that you turn in with your journal. Our policy is that you must read the books in print editions. Electronic editions are not acceptable.
  1. For each entry, identify a question or issue from the novel that you consider to have significance and discuss it. The entries should not simply be descriptions of what happens in a given section.
  1. It is not necessary that you write your entries prior to finishing the novel. You may write them as you go along, or, if you feel that writing the entries as you go would disrupt your experience of reading the novel, you may write them after you have finished the entire novel as a commentary on various aspects of the text.
  1. Entries must cover topics that are distributed roughly equally in the beginning, middle, and end of the novel. You will not receive full credit if your entries fail to engage with the entire novel in a balanced way.

It is strongly recommended that you pace your reading of the novels so that you finish shortly before your seminar is held. Also be sure to go back and review the entire novel carefully before you attend the seminar. Success on the reading quizzes will require a lively grasp of the details of the text.

Enjoy the novels!

  • A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, Mark Twain
  • The House of the Seven Gables, Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • Moby Dick, Herman Melville
  • Silas Marner, George Eliot
  • War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
  • Gulliver’s Travels, Jonathan Swift
  • The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoevsky
  • The Years, Virginia Woolf