Philosophy of Fiction: The Novel WEA Sydney

Thanks for adding:

Proceed to Checkout

Continue browsing


Print this page Philosophy of Fiction: The Novel

Available Classes

The course will begin by discussing the features which constitute a ‘novel’, and the history of its emergence from other forms of narrative. We will also discuss issues such as: Para text and framing devices; The role of the narrative structure; The complexities of multiple narrators; Types of authorship; And of course, philosophical content. We will study many novels beginning with Don Quixote (1605) by Miguel de Cervantes and end with Patrick White’s Tree of Man (1955)


  • Online


  • Historical Background: The forms of literature from which the novel develops.
  • Political and Social context: Art is always embedded in the developments of its time. We will look at the features of 17th and 18th c culture which make the novel possible, including the rise of the Middle Class.
  • Beginning: Don Quixote (1605) by Miguel de Cervantes, Oroonoko (1688) by Aphra Behn and Robinson Crusoe (1719) by Daniel Defoe.
  • The 19th century with Far from the Maddening Crowd (1874) by Thomas Hardy. This beautiful story is concerned with many of the anxieties of the age: Urbanization and the loss of connection to the natural world; Changing social structures (Bathsheba’s fight to maintain her independence as a women); Moral responsibility and chance; The nature of love and lust.
  • The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentlemen (1759) by Laurence Sterne. Vast amounts have been written about this ‘novel’, some claiming it to be ‘postmodern’ in its preoccupation with subverting linear narrative structure. Sterne may not have been interested in inventing a new kind of novel; the tradition is still very young, however he is interested in exploring the idea of the authorial project itself.
  • The rise of the Modern novel. Parting company with traditional Realism.
  • The Unconscious: One of the seemingly impossible tasks of the Modern novel was how to represent the unconscious in the conscious space of language. Our focus work will be Thomas Mann’s monumental novel The Magic Mountain (1924). For Mann the central paradox of Modernism is the historical loss of the mythic and its rediscovery in the unconscious.
  • The American Novel: The Great Gatsby (1925) by F Scott Fitzgerald and Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury (1929) The symbolic structure of fiction must accommodate its own contemporary world, for an American like Fitzgerald it is the motor car in Gatsby which symbolizes the “vast carelessness of indifferent violence”.
  • Postcolonial Fictions: Postcolonialism explores ideas of metropolitan alienation, race and the problems of speaking in a ‘universal voice’. V. S. Napaul’s experiences in 1950’s London express both the disorientation and hope of this time: “I was at the beginning of that great movement of people that was to take place in the second half of the 20th c.
  • The Fictionalisation of Australia: Miles Franklin My Brilliant Career (1901) Patrick White Tree of Man (1955)


By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  1. Have a overall understanding of the elements of storytelling and fiction.
  2. Have knowledge of the history of the invention of the novel.
  3. Identify the internal elements which constitute the novel form.
  4. Discuss the philosophical ideas within a range of novels.
  5. Apply the theory of fiction to contemporary works of fiction.

Kerry Sanders

BA (Hons), PhD
Dr Kerry Sanders gained her PhD in Philosophy at the University of Sydney. Her specialist areas are: Aesthetics, Phenomenology, Postmodernism and Political Philosophy. She has formerly taught at...