"She tried to settle that most difficult problem for women, how much was to be utterly merged in obedience to authority, and how much might be set apart for freedom in working." –Elizabeth Gaskell, North and South

Note: [these course requirements and schedule are still 'under construction', as is theBblearn site, and these are scheduled to be ready by the first day of class--check back at this page and on Bblearn once I 'activate' the Bblearn section]

Dr. Stephan Flores (sflores@uidaho.edu)    
Class meets: 11:00am-12:15pm TR Niccol 208 (Moscow) and HC 128(CdA)
http://www.webpages.uidaho.edu/~sflores/                                                  English Department: 885-6156
Office hours: W 2:30pm-4:00 p.m. & by appt.                                             Office: Brink 125

English 475.01 and 475.02
Studies in Literary Genres: Novel Heroines

Prerequisite(s): prior course in literature; in addition, English majors should have completed English 215 or also be enrolled in 215; others/nonmajors (such as students who wish to take this course as part of the Women's Studies curriculum) may request permission to enroll (sflores@uidaho.edu).

We will explore what is novel in character/literary history/narrative form in novels that range from the early 19th c. to the present that range across different embodiments and contested concepts of what constitutes a heroine, across different genres, forms of narration, and plots that move from expectations of marriage as well as the refusal of marriage, with conflicts and mediations in cross-class/status relations, heterosexual and same-sex desire, and criminal transgression, violence, and judgment. The primary texts feature six novels by women: Jane Austen, Mansfield Park (1813-1814); Elizabeth Gaskell, North and South (1854-1855); Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth (1905); the twisted (including plot) sexually explicit Sarah Waters's Fingersmith (2002); Ottessa Moshfegh, Eileen: A Novel (2015); Giolito, Malin Persson, Quicksand (2016/2017 trans.), and perhaps a few short stories in Bblearn folders for your future reading beyond our semester. I find these novels extraordinarily compelling/fascinating and highly enjoyable (!)—I look forward to class discussions and differing perspectives on these works and your engagement with them and with the topic of ‘novel heroines.’

Written work includes weekly concise Inquiry-Starters posted on Bblearn, a Summary & Critical Reflection, a Critical Analysis Essay, and a Term Essay. Our studies and your writing include substantial engagement with scholarly essays on several of the ‘early’ novels and some consideration of the development of the novel/theories of the novel.

Here is a general guiding premise/claim for this literature course and its outcomes (also see expected learning outcomes to be posted): Literature provides us with a way of understanding how our social life works. Human social life consists of narratives for living, with ‘narratives’ being understood here as an actual life experience spread over time and guided by cultural stories that justify it to participants. Both the cultural and real-world narrative can change; both use frames to exclude norm-dissonant perspectives and values and to ensure that the meanings that support the continuity and homogeneity of the lived process are stable, predictable, and enforced. Who tells the stories in the culture thus largely shapes how that cultural world will be organized. Stories are what people believe and how they believe, and how people believe determines how they act and how they live. Stories can change how people think, perceive, believe, and act. The analysis of the work they perform is thus an important endeavor. And that is what criticism is all about. (An Introduction to Criticism: Literature/Film/Culture--Wiley-Blackwell, 2012).

Required six novels in these editions (we'll start the semester with Austen's Mansfield Park, so start reading that now!--note that the Bedford edition of The House of Mirth is particularly important to own/have access to, because of its sections on five different critical/theoretical perspectives and accompanying/illustrative essays on the novel):

Austen, Jane. Mansfield Park. Ed. June Sturrock. Broadview P, 2001. ISBN: 9781551110981 / 1551110989   Pbk.

Gaskell, Elizabeth. North and South. Ed. Angus Easson with new introduction by Sally Shuttleworth. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2008. ISBN: 9780199537006 [or any version of this same edition, from 1998 on, such as ISBN: 9780192831941 Pbk.

Wharton, Edith. The House of Mirth. Ed. Shari Benstock. Boston and New York: Bedford Books of St. Martin’s P, 1994. Paperback.  ISBN-13: 978-0312062347  Pbk.

Waters, Sarah. Fingersmith. New York: Riverhead Books, 2002. ISBN: 978-1-57322-972-2  Pbk.

Moshfegh, Ottessa. Eileen: A Novel. Penguin, 2016. ISBN: 978-0143128755  Pbk.

Giolito, Malin Persson. Quicksand. Simon & Schuster, 2017. ISBN: 978-1-4711-6032-5  Hardback.

Login to Bblearn before our first class meeting by using your UIDAHO NetID. You can update your password at http://help.uidaho.edu/. If you haven't already, setup your NetID at www.vandalsetup.uidaho.edu. If you continue to experience problems accessing BbLearn after changing your password, please contact the ITS Help Desk by email helpdesk@uidaho.edu, or phone (208)885-HELP.
Student Help using BbLearn

Broader contexts for desired course outcomes are situated within the department's goals for the English major and the university's learning outcomes. In addition, as mentioned see further below for learning outcomes specific to this course and to 400-level literature courses. The primary desired learning outcomes for this course, beyond the department's specified outcomes for 300-400 level literature courses, include

1. Developing a critical understanding of a selective representation of novels and particulary 'heroines' from the early 19th c. to the present, including significant cultural and political contexts and historical shifts over this period.

2. Developing critical reading and writing practices and competencies, in relation not only to primary literary texts but also substantial range of scholarship on selected novels/novelists.

3. Developing a highly selective, focused critical understanding of novels and theories of the novel and its development.


1. Twelve written Inquiry Starters (ISs--12 total over the course of the semester): a combination of citation (summary-review) with thesis/problem-driven response (at minimum 300 words each), due by 10 a.m. on--in the majority of weeks--usually your choice of either Tuesday or Thursday except for Tuesday 2/13 and Tuesday 3/6--note the range/degree of choice, week by week, on the course schedule below. Each IS should demonstrate a reflective engagement with that week's reading assignment(s), to include finding a couple of points of interest that enable you to take a stance/make a claim, state a point of view/thesis about the texts/ideas--see two examples via this weblink and also/especially the four examples posted in two posts on the first discussion thread. Six of your Inquiry Starters should respond quite directly to a section/text of the novel under discussion for that day, with the additional option of your line of inquiry/understanding having been directed/inflected by reading a headnote or bit of scholarship (an article, for example); (the other) six of your Inquiry Starters should respond directly to a substantial scholarly article/resource from Bblearn (PDF) on each of the four 'older' novels (MP, NS, HM, & Fingersmith) --this is in addition to whatever scholarly article that you end up using for your Summary-&-Critical Reflection assignment (see #2 below); (the remaining) three ISs should be on some theoretical perspective on theories of the novel or of narrative or some other topic related to the latter three novels.

Inquiry Starters present a means for you and the class to share close critical analysis, enthusiasms and questions as you delve into the text’s significance, methods, and effects, and to learn from others' comments (a version of Graff's "They Say, I Say" exchange, see Bblearn). No late entries —Inquiry Starters are due/posted on the Bblearn discussion thread no later than 10 a.m. and must address a scheduled text or relevant piece of scholarship for that day (in other words, do not post about a Tuesday text on Thursday). See left side menu on Bblearn, click on that, then find appropriate thread for each IS, and post an entry and provide a "title" for your entry. Inquiry Starters are to be posted on Bblearn no later than 10 a.m. the day of class. Entries posted any later than 10 a.m. will lose five points--that is, your semester point total will be reduced by fivepoints for each late or missing Inquiry-Starter entry. Come to class prepared to talk about your ISs/ideas; at times we'll spotlight individual ISs, using the projector to introduce the ISs via Bblearn to facilitate discussion, so keep in mind that you may be called upon in class to comment further upon your IS. I attend to the ISs as part of my evaluation of your performance in the course--strive each week for a full and thoughtful/analytical entry--avoid posting entries that are too brief and/or mainly descriptive rather than analytical (points might be deducted). Remember: Missing or late inquiry-starter entries will be counted against your semester grade, and if your grades are on a borderline between grade ranges then missing even one entry may reduce your semester grade (see below); however, you have one opportunity at the end of the semester to post an Inquiry Starter on Quicksand or on a piece of criticism/theory that will make up for a previous missing or late Inquiry Starter--see this in the list of IS discussion threads in the Bblearn folder.

2. Summary-&-Critical Reflection assignment (comprised of two parts, a Summary and a Critical Reflection Essay, each part 450-500 words, dues dates divvied up among the four older novels (MP, NS, HM, & Fingersmith) including copy (of both parts of the assignment), preferably as MS Word attachment, sent by email to me--be sure to include your last name as part of the document title, such as Smith_475_SCR). Whichever week you are scheduled to complete your Summary-&-Critical Reflection, you are not required to submit an Inquiry Starter that week. Just post an entry among those Inquiry Starters that reminds me to see, instead, your summary reflection in the assignment area designated for that, AND also post just the Summary (not the reflection essay) as a separate attached document in the Discussion Thread that I shall create for all of the Summaries.

Summary (450-500 words): Focus your summary to represent key aspects of one of the substantial scholarly articles/book chapters (PDF) available in our Bblearn course site. Once you have determined your choice, send an email to me (sflores@uidaho.edu) to let me know which article/chapter you have selected, and perhaps a sentence or two about why you selected that piece.

Your summary should present a straightforward account of the scholarly essay's primary, most important or engaging ideas and points of argument and interpretation.

Process (for summary and looking ahead to the critical reflection): After reading the scholarly essay closely, you might explore to what extent and how the reading has influenced your views and understanding, to include determining points of agreement or doubt, significant questions, important ideas you "take away" from the reading, and by reflecting on what you might "say back" to the author in sharing your perspective on the essay (and perhaps on a particular play that may be under discussion in the article).

As you write the summary, work from your sense of the scholarly essay's structure and content, (what each part of the essay "does" and "says," usually a response to an implicit question)—recognize that you will need to select among such points because your word limit will force you to choose what ideas and arguments to focus on.

Your summary should strive to be accurate, direct, and concise; aim for a fair, nonpartisan stance and tone, and except for brief quotes use your own words to express the author's ideas, use attributive tags (such as according to Smith or Smith argues that) to keep the reader informed that you are expressing another's ideas, and focus the summary to produce a cohesive, coherent account. You might begin the summary by identifying the question or the problem that the essay addresses, then state the essay's purpose or thesis and summarize its main argument or primary analysis.

Critical Reflection essay (450-500 words): write a reflective, question -and problem-posing critical essay that explains and explores what you consider to be one of the most important/compelling/useful and/or problematic interpretative issues/ideas//theories in the novel under review (same novel as the focus of the Summary): that is, focus your critical reflection and inquiry on some aspect of what you have learned about studying a particular novel and if you can make a broader generalization, about studying 'novel heroines' thus far (through one or more specific examples). Given the brevity of this essay, you may find it useful to quote briefly from one or more passages from a novel and from a scholar/critic—such as the essay that you just summarized—in order to support your inquiry with a specific illustration. You also may find it effective to compose a thesis for your essay that maps out the significant points that you want to develop and discuss. Assume that your audience is familiar with what we have read and studied, and take care to articulate clearly your inquiry into the material, especially problems or contradictions that seem difficult to resolve. See this weblink for additional concise advice on writing a critical essay or this weblink for fuller advice.

*NOTE on the following two essays/assignments: you may choose to write and submit the longer Term Essay by April 2, and then submit the somewhat shorter Critical Analysis Essay by May 3, if you prefer to switch your work in that way. At least one of these essays must be about one (or more) of the earlier novels--that is, about Mansfield Park, or North and South, or The House of Mirth (with significant reference to at least two scholarly articles on the novel in question).

3. Critical Analysis Essay on Mansfield Park, and/or North and South, and/or The House of Mirth (unless you write about one of those novels in your Term Essay) due by E-Mail to me on Monday April 2 by 3pm (and no later than Thursday April 5 at 2pm--send copy to me by email (include your last name as part of the document title, such as Smith_475_Sp18_CA, also double-spaced 12 pt, Times New Roman, 1-inch margins, headers in upper right corner with last name and page number, and indicate on your first page that this is your Critical Analysis Essay, MLA format,and for Moscow-based students, also hard copy to Brink 200 or bring hard copy to class on Tuesday [see Bblearn folder "Advice on Writing Essays" and see this immediately prior&following highlighted weblink for fuller advice on writing critical essay(s)]; 1600 words/six pages for main body of essay, double-spaced, with reference to at least two pieces of “instructor-specified” secondary criticism beyond our assigned reading, according to selections posted on our class Bblearn folders for criticism on each novel; that is, you must refer to/cite/draw upon at least two substantial article/book chapters from the Bblearn folder for the corresponding novel. Though you may consult other/outside secondary criticism from scholarly journals and books, do not plan to make those sources the primary, informing perspectives and research for your essay.You may draw upon/incorporate/revise one or more of your Inquiry Starters as well as your Summary & Critical Reflection essay assignment as a means to discover and to develop a topic, but you are not required or expected to do so. I encourage you to send to me by email a concise description of your provisional topic and 'thesis/perspective' in advance of the due date. The primary aims of this thesis-seeking/problem-posing exploratory essay assignment is to engage with one or more novels corresponding critical interpretation/reception by identifying problems, developing claims and arguments, and enriching your literary understanding, interests, and commitments. I am not necessarily interested so much in whether your analysis is 'original' as I am in whether you address an interesting topic, explore interpretive/analytic issues productively, and demonstrate understanding that proceeds from your own reading as well as your research. Use/learn Modern Language Association format for any notes or works cited (see, for instance, link to MLA format guidelines further below). See also University of Idaho Guidelines on Academic Dishonesty (including plagiarism). In accordance with the UI Student Code of Conduct, I report instances of academic dishonesty/plagiarism, to the office of the Dean of Students. See rubric for evaluating the Critical Essay and the Term Essay, further below.

4. Term Essay, titled, (sent also to me by email, include your last name as part of the document title, such as Smith_475_Sp18_TE) ) due no later than 4:30 pm Friday May 4 in Brink Hall main office room 200, on a novel or novels (excluding novel (s) of prior Critical Analysis Essay or at least the essay cannot be primarily about the novel that was the primary focus of your other essay, double-spaced (12 pt, Times New Roman, 1-inch margins, headers in upper right corner with last name and page number, and indicate on your first page that this is your Term Essay, MLA format, approximately 10 or more pages for main body of essay), with significant reference to at least two secondary works of criticism if such criticism is available (the minimum two scholarly sources are to be selected from folders on Bblearn, that include recent articles or book chapters--if you are writing on Quicksand or Eileen, you do not need to cite scholarly articles on those novels because they most likely do not yet exist! Do refer to book reviews or other theoretical work that informs your analysis): this critical term essay develops ideas prompted by our study and discussion of the novels, by recent scholarship, and by your perspectives. I shall attend to the ways that you select, define, and engage questions and contradictions, and to the clarity, imagination, and grace that you demonstrate in presenting your topic, (hypo)thesis, and argument, and the extent to which your work engages with, explains, and contributes to the larger "conversation" of scholarship on the topic and novel under analysis. I do not always expect essays to conclude by "solving" such problems or by "proving" your thesis; I hope that you address interesting topics (questions for debate, interpretation, and analysis) in thoughtful and useful ways. Note: you may continue to explore/pursue your inquiries into a prior topic and line of analysis, but do not substantially repeat prior, specific analysis from your previous Critical Essay. Please feel invited to confer with me during the writing process, by office hours (including Zoom videoconference via Bblearn link) and email. See also general advice for critical essays similar to prior advice on the Critical Essay that also pertains to this term essay. See also University of Idaho Guidelines on Academic Dishonesty (including plagiarism). In accordance with the UI Student Code of Conduct, I report instances of academic dishonesty/plagiarism, to the office of the Dean of Students.

Concise Advice for this assignment: Work to present a clearly written argument and analysis, based on evidence, about the meaning, power, or structure of the novel(s) that you select. Aim to produce a narrative that offers an explanation for the effects of the novel—these effects, for instance, include (arguably) the ideas and feelings produced by the novel. You will need to describe the evidence you are using, state your interpretations of this evidence, and bring those insights together into a claim (thesis) about the way the novel works, what it means, and how and why it has the effects that you claim (such as its emotional impact).  Such an argument aims to analyze examples in order to come to broader conclusions—your argument therefore should demonstrate inductive reasoning that moves logically and persuasively from particular pieces of compelling evidence to broader generalizations that advance, deepen, and enrich understanding. The evidence that you cite and analyze may include, for example, elements of narrative structure and techniques as well as attention to the novel's narrative arc, including its representation of specific cultural, historical, ideological issues, identities, and relationships. The story of the novel typically engages with conflicts, contradictions, and questions or problems, and your analysis may consider to what degree the novel seems to answer or to resolve such issues, and how it might open up new perspectives for understanding and experience.

5. Participation: Please take advantage of opportunities to share your insights and to listen and reply to others' ideas. I hope that questions and discussions will enable you to move the class in directions you find most helpful, give you opportunities to develop critical skills through collaboration, and provide for a productive, interesting exchange of perspectives among the class. You may meet periodically in small groups in class primarily for sharing Inquiry-Starters and to prompt our class discussions. I expect you to contribute productively to class discussion, and I will make an effort to call on you directly, especially if you tend not (!) to pitch in to share your views and questions.

6. All required work is due at the beginning of class on the due date—work turned in late will be graded accordingly. Required graded written work will be downgraded one notch (for example, B+ to B, converted to points for each assignment) for each weekday late (not just days classes meet but counting just one day for a weekend). Note, however, that the Critical Analysis Essay and the Term Essay cannot be turned in late. See assignments for deadlines for limits on late essays. I will grant short extensions for medical and family emergencies—but talk with me as soon as possible to request an extension. Always keep copies of your work.

7. Attendance: always attend class (unless you are sick). One or two absences will not affect your semester grade; a third absence will count (- 3pts) only if you have four or more absences, with a five-point reduction for each absence starting with four absences (four absences=minus 8 points, five absences = minus 13 points); six or more absences is sufficient cause for you to receive a failing grade for the course, regardless of your semester point total. All absences will be counted—excused or not—if something extraordinary occurs, talk to me. Please try to schedule appointments with doctors or advisors outside of class time.

Exceptional circumstances: Another category of absence has to due with conflicting university commitments that are academic (such as a theater majors' trip to a regional conference) or a required UI athletic trip, or a conflict directly related to next steps in your career/professional life (such as a job interview) etc.—that is, absences that are due to a departmental or team trip (with supporting note from an academic adviser or the athletic department), or prolonged or recurring illness.
To make up for such absences on an absence-by-absence basis, choose a scholarly article or substantial headnote/chapter from our text(s) or from a Bblearn folder—select one that can be related in some way to the text under discussion for the day for which you will be absent due to a university academic or sports commitment/conflict, or a doctor's appointment, or absences due to illness that accumulate to three or more.

Write a concise summary (275-300 words) of some main aspect of the scholarly article/source—such as the primary, most important or engaging idea(s) and point(s) of argument and interpretation—also include some brief reflection (75-100 words) on the article’s main ideas/argument: for example, what  you find most valuable or problematic. Strive to be accurate, direct, and concise in the summary; aim for a fair, nonpartisan stance and tone, and except for brief quotes use your own words to express the author's ideas, use attributive tags (such as according to Smith or Smith argues that) to keep the reader informed that you are expressing another's ideas, and focus the summary to produce a cohesive, coherent account. You might begin the summary by identifying the question or the problem that the essay addresses, then state the essay's purpose or thesis and summarize its argument or primary analysis.
Post your entry as an extra Inquiry Starter for that week (to be posted no later than a week following the missed class), and also send an email to me with the content of that post (sflores@uidaho.edu).

8. Grades: Summary-Critical Reflection (35 pts.); Critical Analysis Essay (100 pts); Term Essay (125 pts). These required assignments add up to a maximum of 260 points. Thus 234-260 points equals an A, 208-233 equals a B, 182-207 equals a C, 156-181 equals a D, and anything below 156 receives an F. I shall reserve a potential five bonus points based on my perceptions of the strength of your participation and efforts over the semester (these potential points will be factored into the Absence/Bonus points column in Bblearn Grade Center); incomplete or missing Inquiry-Starter entries will be counted against your semester grade, with the loss of five points for each missing or incomplete entry. NOTE, therefore, that missing even one Inquiry Starter combined for example with three absences, could affect your overall semester grade by lowering your total points by 8 points. You might earn grades in the A(-) range, for instance, on the Critical Essay and on the Term Essay, yet receive a B for the semester if you incur such penalty points because of missing ISs and absences--make every effort to complete each week's ISs on time, in part because such penalty points add up all too quickly. Also note that near the end of November, I will post your point totals for the graded assignments, and any accumulated penalty points to date for missing/late ISs, and absences, to the Grade Center in Bblearn.

9. Office hours. I encourage you to confer with me—especially before assignments are due—to talk about your interests, intentions, and writing strategies. If you cannot make my regular hours (in Brink 125), we’ll arrange another time. I also welcome communicating with you by E-mail (sflores@uidaho.edu).

10. Use of laptops and cell phones during class is prohibited; occasional use of laptops—typically for group work and to access the online components of the class—may be permitted with my approval.

11. Do not submit work for this class that you have submitted or intend to submit for a grade in another course; as always, be careful to cite anyone else's work that you draw upon. See highlighted link on the class website to a useful guide to avoiding plagiarism, and a link to information on the university's policies regarding plagiarism. See also University of Idaho Guidelines on Academic Dishonesty (including plagiarism). In accordance with the UI Student Code of Conduct, I report instances of academic dishonesty/plagiarism, to the office of the Dean of Students.

12. Classroom Learning and Civility: To support learning and discovery in this course—as in any university course—it is essential that each member of the class feel as free and as safe as possible in his or her participation. To this end, we must collectively expect that everyone (students, professors, and guests) seek to be respectful and civil to one another in discussion, in action, in teaching, and in learning. Because knowledge and learning are constructed and construed through social inquiry and exchange, it is vital that course dialogue and debate encourage and expect a substantial range of reasoned, expressive, and impassioned articulation of diverse views in order to build a stronger understanding of the materials and of one another's ways of knowing. These practices strengthen our capacities for understanding and the production of (new) knowledge. As with the critical writing assignments for this class, our primary aims include engaging with texts and their varied critical interpretations by identifying problems, developing claims and arguments with supporting lines of evidence and explanation, and enriching our literary understanding, interests, and commitments.

Should you feel our classroom interactions do not reflect an environment of civility and respect, you are encouraged to meet with me during office hours to discuss your concern. Additional resources for expression of concern and avenues of support include the chair of the Department of English, Dr. Scott Slovic, the Dean of Students office and staff (5-6757), the UI Counseling & Testing Center’s confidential services (5-6716), or the UI Office of Human Rights, Access, & Inclusion (5-4285).

13. Disability Support Services: Reasonable accommodations are available for students who have documented temporary or permanent disabilities. All accommodations must be approved through Disability Support Services (885-6307; dss@uidaho.edu; www.uidaho.edu/dss) located in the Idaho Commons Building, Room 306 in order to notify your instructor(s) as soon as possible regarding accommodation(s) needed for the course.

English 475.01/02 Semester Schedule Spring 2018 (subject to some tweaking/revision as we go along): Strive/aim not only to keep up with this schedule but to get ahead of the reading if you can--this will provide for more opportunity to read scholarship on the novels and to re-read as you work on your essays.





1/11 (Thursday)


Jane Austen, Mansfield Park chapters one to three (pp. 35-62, Broadview edition), or if your hard copy is delayed, read chapters online here



Inquiry Starter 1 due by 10:00 am Tuesday or Thursday; Mansfield Park chs. 4-15 (63-169)

Mansfield Park chs. 16-22 (170-230); read Sturrock's "Introduction" (with plot spoilers) to the Broadview edition (11-28)--also, might as well see the plot summary for the novel in Bblearn folder, if you wish!

This upcoming weekend, plan to read or at least browse an article on Mansfield Park, from Bblearn folder


Inquiry Starter 2 due Tuesday or Thursday by 10:00 am on Bblearn; Mansfield Park chs. 23-32 (231-330); Ballaster, Ros. “Women and the rise of the novel: sexual prescripts.” Women and Literature in Britain 1700-1800. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2000. 197-216.[in Bblearn folder on the rise and history of the novel]

Mansfield Park chs. 33-38 (331-389); an interesting 'backdrop' theory set up may be to read at least the introduction of: Thompson, Helen. Ingenuous Subjection: Compliance and Power in the Eighteenth-Century Domestic Novel. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 2005. [Intro. , and Ch. 1 on ‘Boys, Girls, and Wives: Post-Patriarchal Power and the Problem of Feminine Subjection’; ch. 2 on ‘Mushrooms, Subjects, and Women: The Hobbesian Individual and the Domestic Novel’]



Inquiry Starter 3 due Tuesday or Thursday by 10:00 am on Bblearn (unless you are submitting a Summary-Critical Reflection of a scholarly essay on MP due today); Mansfield Park chs. 39-48 (390-468); highly recommended: see this provocative, compelling chapter/essay:

Heydt-Stevenson, Jillian. Austen’s Unbecoming Conjunctions: Subversive Laughter, Embodied History. (Palgrave, 2005). [Chapter 4 on Making and Improving: Fallen Women, Masquerades, and Erotic Humor in Mansfield Park’]; see also Summaries of the articles/chapters of Johnson, Zirker, and Tanner, provided by Mary, Sharleen, and Melissa, in Bblearn Discussion Thread

Elizabeth Gaskell, North and South Vol. 1, chs. 1-5 (pp. 5-52); addition option: Moglen, Helene. The Trauma of Gender: A Feminist Theory of the English Novel. Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: U of California P, 2001. [excerpt of introduction and conclusion]

This upcoming weekend, plan to read or at least browse an article on North and South, from Bblearn folder


Inquiry Starter 4 due Tuesday or Thursday by 10:00 am on Bblearn; North and South Vol. 1, chs. 6-19 (52-156)

North and South Vol. 1, chs. 20-25 (157-206); Armstrong, Nancy. How Novels Think: The Limits of British Individualism from 1719-1900. New York: Columbia UP, 2005.  Introduction: How Novels Think



Inquiry Starter 5 due Tuesday by 10:00 am on Bblearn, unless you are submitting your Summary-Reflection on a scholarly article on NS today; North and South Vol. 2, chs. 1-15 (207-342)

Class does not meet today but keep up with this assigned work! I have created a Discussion Thread entry for your extra concluding observations on North and South (175 word minimum) in lieu of class discussion: North and South Vol. 2, chs. 16-27 (342-436); or you may prefer to comment on either of these critical essays: Jaffe, Audrey. “Modern and Postmodern Theories of Prose Fiction.” A Companion to the Victorian Novel. Eds. Patrick Brantlinger and William B. Thesing. Basingstoke: Blackwell Publishing, 2002. 424-441. or : Armstrong, Nancy. How Novels Think: The Limits of British Individualism from 1719-1900. New York: Columbia UP, 2005.  Ch. 3: Why a Good Man Is Hard to Find in Victorian Fiction



Inquiry Starter 6 due Tuesday or Thursday by 10:00 am on Bblearn; Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth (3-107)

The House of Mirth (107-167); Optional: Armstrong, Nancy. How Novels Think: The Limits of British Individualism from 1719-1900. New York: Columbia UP, 2005.  Ch. 1: How the Misfit Became a Moral Protagonist

This upcoming weekend, plan to read or at least browse an article on The House of Mirth, from Bblearn folder


Inquiry Starter 7 due Tuesday or Thursday by 10:00 am on Bblearn; The House of Mirth (167-264); for everyone who is not doing a SummaryReflection on HM, send me an email by tomorrow (2/28) with your choice of critical perspective section and essay in the Bedford edition, for your IS due next Tuesday

The House of Mirth (264-305); "A Critical History of The House of Mirth (309-323)



Inquiry Starter 8 due Tuesday by 10:00 am on Bblearn, unless you are submitting your Summary-Reflection on a scholarly article from outside the Bedford edition, due today;The House of Mirth we'll divvy up the rest of the class (up to ten of you) so that all five critical perspectives/essays included in our edition (Cultural Criticism by Robinson, Marxist by Dimock, Feminist by Restuccia, Deconstruction by Norris, and Psychoanalytic by Sullivan) are 'covered' and addressed in your Inquiry Starters

Sarah Waters, Fingersmith (3-66); Note: this novel eventually becomes sexually explicit, both in scenes depicted and 'texts' referenced.



Inquiry Starter 9 due Tuesday or Thursday by 10:00 am on Bblearn; Fingersmith (66-184)

Fingersmith (187-243); read one of the articles on Fingersmith from that Bblearn folder; try to be ahead of our reading, because plot spoilers just may come into view.



Note: Class does not meet today.

Inquiry Starter 10 due Tuesday or Thursday by 10:00 am on Bblearn; Fingersmith (243-366); read an article or substantial book review on this novel, and/or look at one or more of the articles on queer theory in the folder on gender-inflected theory.

Fingersmith (366-416)--reminder: for those who are doing Summaries and Critical Reflections on Fingersmith, that two-part assignment is due a week from today. Try to have the novel finished by today, in terms of ultimate plot spoilers!

NOTE: last day to withdraw from a course is tomorrow, March 30:

Withdraw  March 30
VandalWeb; select Withdraw action and Submit Changes, $5 fee charged
Critical Analysis Essay due no later than Monday April 2, by 3 pm in Brink 200 (or to me in my Brink 125 office)--also send electronic copy via email to me, preferably in MS Word


Critical Analyis Essay due Monday April 2 by 3pm

Fingersmith (419-540)

Fingersmith (540-582); Summary & Critical Reflection due on Fingersmith; no Inquiry Starter due this week; if you have not yet read Claire O'Callaghan's ch.3 in her book Sarah Waters: Gender and Sexual Politics (2017), I encourage you to do so--the chapter is entitled "Beyond the 'Sex Wars': Sex, Pleasure and Pornography in Fingersmith"



Inquiry Starter 11 due no later than this Thursday by 10:00 am on Bblearn; Ottessa Moshfegh, Eileen: A Novel (1-116)

Eileen: A Novel (117-179)



Inquiry Starter 12 due Tuesday or Thursday by 1:00 pm on Bblearn; Eileen: A Novel (181-260); Ahmed, Sara. "Killing Joy: Feminism and the History of Happiness"; see the PDF of reviews, interviews, reading guide for Eileen; rec.: Brown, Laura S. “Not Outside the Range: One Feminist Perspective on Psychic Trauma.”

Malin Persson Giolito, Quicksand (up to p. 68); Specter, Michael. "Partial Recall: Can neuroscience help us to rewrite our most traumatic memories?"


Optional Inquiry Starter due Tuesday or Thursday on Quicksand or on an article on theory, by 10:00 am on Bblearn, for those who need to make up for a missing prior Inquiry Starter, or for one absence for which you missed the one week deadline for making up absences;Quicksand (68-224); Ruti, Mari. "Happiness and Its Discontents"; read a book review of Quicksand

No class today--time to work on your essay and to keep in touch with me va email and Skype for conversations on your progress and questions. Keep up, however, with our readings as best as you can!: Quicksand (224-288); see/read Ramadanovic, Petar. “In the Future . . .: On Trauma and Literature" OR Caruth, Cathy. Literature in the Ashes of History. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 2013. [Ch. 1 Parting Words: Trauma, Silence, and Survival/Sigmund Freud, Beyond the Pleasure Principle, Preface and pp. 3-17]

5/1-3 Come to class prepared to talk about your essay-in-progress, with examples of primary claim (thesis) and line of inquiry (at least a paragraph to share/read aloud); Quicksand (291-406)--we'll discuss the end of the novel; recommended: Brian Massumi, interview in ch. 1 of his Politics of Affect (Polity, 2015); see several brief reviews of Quicksand in that folder No class today--last chance for consultation on your essay, which is due tomorrow. Term Essay due by 4:30pm Friday May 4th (also send to me by email)

Student Learning Outcomes (see this link for longer list and contexts for desired outcomes, that supplement the outcomes stated above and below)

Evaluation/Assessment Rubric for Critical Essay and Term Essay, with check mark along a scale, including specific comments to supplement my notations on the texts of the essays themselves:

Rubric for Initial Criteria for Evaluating Critical Writing/Essays:   Excellent    Very Good-Good    Competent-Fair    Weak
Note: Ultimately the evaluation of your work is holistic,
and therefore also intends to register the different, nuanced,
unexpected and evocative effects of your analysis,
exploration, creative expression/affect, and engagement
with learning and discovery.

1. Strength and clarity of (hypo)thesis/focus,
this may include your introduction to the problem to be
addressed, the critical/scholarly question and
conversation that your essay will contribute to,
intervene in …

2. Intellectual/conceptual strength and persuasiveness of
main claim as well as ensuing argument (including
counter-argument to respond to differing or opposing views
/logic/premises/critical analysis/theory/ideas         

3. Cohesive and coherent development, logical
 organization, including well-structured paragraphs with
clear points and compelling, specific support/evidence

4. Analysis of text’s/topic’s relevant cultural/historical
 contexts and if deployed, of related scholarship/criticism;
analysis of text’s rhetorical/persuasive strategies,
narrative structure

5. Topic’s depth/complexity, including explanation of
problem to be addressed, recognition of text’s
conflicts/contradictions (ideological/rhetorical),
creativity and sense of discovery/affective engagement
conveyed—the articulated sense of “what’s at stake, why
it matters” —what difference your essay makes

6. Significance/ conclusion

7. Effective sentences, syntax, verbs, diction,
punctuation, complexity, and suitable style: academic,
critical, appropriate to your understanding of the
materials/subjects; avoids clichés and trite expressions, avoids
overusing prepositional phrases, appropriately concise

8. MLA style—parenthetical citation of sources,
Works Cited; formatting (double-spaced 12 pt, Times New Roman,
1-inch margins, headers in upper right corner with last name and page number
spelling not graded but may be noted at times in body/text of your essay

University of Idaho Guidelines on Academic Dishonesty (including plagiarism)

Some Advice on Writing Critical Essays for this course (see also folder in our course Bblearn site for Advice on Writing Critical Essay)

Purdue OWL advice on Writing in Literature (including links for writing a 'good' literature paper and writing about plays etc.

UNLV Writing Center's Tips on Writing About Literature

Lessons on Style (general advice/quited dated handout but perhaps worth looking over) [pdf]

Quick Advice on Punctuation (also dated) [pdf]

Summary/Overview of Perspectives on Critical Theory

And additional older links/summaries/resources, some of which I may get around to revising:

New Historicisms

What Is Deconstruction

What Is Psychoanalytic Criticism

What Is Feminist Criticism

What Is Marxist Criticism


Mary Klages on Humanism and Literary Theory

Mary Klages on Bahktin

Mary Klages on Claude Lévi-Strauss

Mary Klages on Poststructuralism/Derrida

Mary Klages on Homi Bhaba/Race and Postcolonialism

Mary Klages on Postmodernism (via Sarup)

Mary Klages on Postmodernism II (via Lyotard/Baudrillard)

Online Writing Center Resources (from writing essays to grammar and usage advice):

Purdue OWL workshop/guidelines on using MLA for citation

MLA Quick Guide to Works Cited/citation

Lessons on Style (general advice/quited dated handout but perhaps worth looking over) [pdf]

Quick Advice on Punctuation (also dated) [pdf]

How to Lead Discussion (focused on peer-peer interaction)

Leading an Effective Discussion (focused on TAs and faculty)

Facilitating Discussions (focused on TAs and faculty)

A hodgepodge assembly of comments on the novels appears below, to give you a better idea of these works.

About Mansfield Park:
At the age of ten, Fanny Price leaves the poverty of her Portsmouth home to be brought up among the family of her wealthy uncle, Sir Thomas Bertram, in the chilly grandeur of Mansfield Park. She gradually falls in love with her cousin Edmund, but when the dazzling and sophisticated Crawfords arrive, and amateur theatricals unleash rivalry and sexual jealousy, Fanny has to fight to retain her independence.
Mansfield Park is Austen’s darkest, and most complex novel. In contrast to the confident and vivacious heroines of Emma and Pride and Prejudice, its central character, Fanny Price, is a shy and vulnerable poor relation who finds the courage to stand up for her principles and desires. Fanny comes to live at Mansfield Park, the home of the wealthy Bertram family, and of Fanny’s aunt, Lady Bertram. Though the family impresses upon Fanny her inferior status, she finds a friend in Edmund, the younger brother.
Mansfield Park explores important issues such as slavery (the source of the Bertrams’ wealth), the oppressive nature of idealized femininity, and women’s education. Unlike Jane Austen’s earlier novels, Mansfield Park is embedded within a specific historical moment—the novel engages with a range of contemporary controversies . . . Austen’s most discomforting—as well as engrossing—text.

About North and South: "She tried to settle that most difficult problem for women, how much was to be utterly merged in obedience to authority, and how much might be set apart for freedom in working." Comments from this edition: "North and South is a novel about rebellion. Moving from the industrial riots of discontented millworkers through to the unsought passions of a middle-class woman, and from religious crises of conscience to the ethics of naval mutiny, it poses fundamental questions about the nature of social authority and obedience. Through the story of Margaret Hale, the middle-class southerner who moves to the northern industrial town of Milton, Gaskell skillfully explores issues of class and gender in the conflict between Margaret's ready sympathy with the workers and her growing attraction to the charismatic mill owner, John Thornton."

“North and South skilfully weaves a compelling love story into a clash between the pursuit of profit and humanitarian ideals. When her father leaves the Church in a crisis of conscience, Margaret Hale is uprooted from her comfortable home in Hampshire to move with her family to the North of England. Initially repulsed by the ugliness of her new surroundings in the industrial town of Milton, Margaret becomes aware of the poverty and suffering of local mill workers and develops a passionate sense of social justice. This is intensified by her tempestuous relationship with the mill-owner and self-made man John Thornton, as their fierce opposition over his treatment of his employees masks a deeper attraction. In North and South Gaskell skilfully fused individual feeling with social concern, and in Margaret Hale created one of the most original heroines of Victorian literature.” –Penguin blurb

About The House of Mirth: Set among the glittering salons of Gilded Age New York, Edith Wharton’s most popular novel is a moving indictment of a society whose soul-crushing limitations destroy a woman too spirited to be contained by them.
 The beautiful, much-desired Lily Bart has been raised to be one of the perfect wives of the wealthy upper class, but her drive and her spark of independent character prevent her from conforming sucessfully. Her desire for a comfortable life means that she will not marry for love without money, but her resistance to the rules of the social elite endangers her many marriage proposals and leads to a dramatic downward spiral into debt and dishonor. One of Edith Wharton’s most bracing and nuanced portraits of the life of women in a hostile, highly ordered world, The House of Mirth unfolds with the force of classical tragedy.
   A frivolous society can acquire dramatic significance only through what its frivolity destroys."–Edith Wharton
Lily Bart knows that she must marry–her expensive tastes and mounting debts demand it–and, at twenty-nine, she has every artful wile at her disposal to secure that end. But attached as she is to the social world of her wealthy suitors, something in her rebels against the insipid men whom circumstances compel her to charm.
        "Why must a girl pay so dearly for her least escape," Lily muses as she contemplates the prospect of being bored all afternoon by Percy Grice, dull but undeniably rich, "on the bare chance that he might ulti-
mately do her the honor of boring her for life?" Lily is distracted from her prey by the arrival of Lawrence Selden, handsome, quick-witted, and penniless. A runaway bestseller on publication in 1905, The House of Mirth is a brilliant romantic novel of manners, the book that established Edith Wharton as one of America’s greatest novelists.
"        A tragedy of our modern life, in which the relentlessness of what men used to call Fate and esteem, in their ignorance, a power beyond their control, is as vividly set forth as ever it was by Aeschylus or Shakespeare." –The New York Times

On/about Fingersmith:

"We were all more or less thieves at Lant Street. But we were that kind of thief that rather eased the dodgy deed along, than did it … We could pass anything, anything at all, at speeds which would astonish you. There was only one thing, in fact, that had come and got stuck – one thing that had somehow withstood the tremendous pull of that passage – one thing that never had a price put to it. I mean of course, Me."

London 1862. Sue Trinder, orphaned at birth, grows up among petty thieves – fingersmiths – under the rough but loving care of Mrs Sucksby and her 'family'. But from the moment she draws breath, Sue's fate is linked to that of another orphan growing up in a gloomy mansion not too many miles away…

"An extraordinarily good novel" – Mail on Sunday

"A chilling, ingenious erotic thriller – unputdownable" – Sunday Express
Oliver Twist with a twist…Waters spins an absorbing tale that withholds as much as it discloses. A pulsating story.”—The New York Times Book Review

Sue Trinder is an orphan, left as an infant in the care of Mrs. Sucksby, a "baby farmer," who raised her with unusual tenderness, as if Sue were her own. Mrs. Sucksby’s household, with its fussy babies calmed with doses of gin, also hosts a transient family of petty thieves—fingersmiths—for whom this house in the heart of a mean London slum is home.

One day, the most beloved thief of all arrives—Gentleman, an elegant con man, who carries with him an enticing proposition for Sue: If she wins a position as the maid to Maud Lilly, a naïve gentlewoman, and aids Gentleman in her seduction, then they will all share in Maud’s vast inheritance. Once the inheritance is secured, Maud will be disposed of—passed off as mad, and made to live out the rest of her days in a lunatic asylum.

With dreams of paying back the kindness of her adopted family, Sue agrees to the plan. Once in, however, Sue begins to pity her helpless mark and care for Maud Lilly in unexpected ways...But no one and nothing is as it seems in this Dickensian novel of thrills and reversals.

On/about Eileen: A Novel: So here we are. My name was Eileen Dunlop. Now you know me. I was twenty-four years old then, and had a job that paid fifty-seven dollars a week as a kind of secretary at a private juvenile correctional facility for teenage boys. I think of it now as what it really was for all intents and purposes—a prison for boys. I will call it Moorehead. Delvin Moorehead was a terrible landlord I had years later, and so to use his name for such a place feels appropriate. In a week, I would run away from home and never go back.This is the story of how I disappeared.

The Christmas season offers little cheer for Eileen Dunlop, an unassuming yet disturbed young woman trapped between her role as her alcoholic father’s caretaker in a home whose squalor is the talk of the neighborhood and a day job as a secretary at the boys’ prison, filled with its own quotidian horrors. Consumed by resentment and self-loathing, Eileen tempers her dreary days with perverse fantasies and dreams of escaping to the big city. In the meantime, she fills her nights and weekends with shoplifting, stalking a buff prison guard named Randy, and cleaning up her increasingly deranged father’s messes. When the bright, beautiful, and cheery Rebecca Saint John arrives on the scene as the new counselor at Moorehead, Eileen is enchanted and proves unable to resist what appears at first to be a miraculously budding friendship. In a Hitchcockian twist, her affection for Rebecca ultimately pulls her into complicity in a crime that surpasses her wildest imaginings.

Played out against the snowy landscape of coastal New England in the days leading up to Christmas, young Eileen’s story is told from the gimlet-eyed perspective of the now much older narrator. Creepy, mesmerizing, and sublimely funny, in the tradition of Shirley Jackson and early Vladimir Nabokov, this powerful debut novel enthralls and shocks, and introduces one of the most original new voices in contemporary literature.

On/about Quicksand: Is this teenage girl a demonised victim or cold-blooded killer...? We Need to Talk About Kevin meets The Secret History in this gripping novel about secrets and murder.The air is hazy and grey with gunpowder smoke. Everyone has been shot but me. I haven't got so much as a bruise.... Is Maja a normal eighteen-year-old, the poster girl-next-door, popular and excelling at her schoolwork, caught in the middle of a terrible tragedy? Or is she the most reviled teenager in the country? Either way, everyone knows her name. She has spent nine excruciating months in jail, awaiting trial for a mass murder that killed her boyfriend and her best friend, and now the time has come for her to enter the courtroom... ***What people are saying about QUICKSAND*** 'Compelling and brutally candid, especially about modern adolescence, this is not a comfortable book, but the story is so superbly told that it lingers in the mind long after the jury's verdict' Daily Mail 'A suspenseful and addictive experience... [Giolito] expertly delves into the fickle psyche of the media and how they can change a story's narrative with one headline and she shames the press's tendency to report wild conjecture over facts... Though Giolito's perspective is Swedish, it absolutely translates to a greater global crisis' Real Crime 'Giolito gives us the unsettling monologue of a teenage girl as she works her way through her role in murder. It is a splendid work of fiction' Kirkus Reviews 'Gioloto's novel is haunting and immersive' Publishers Weekly'Mystery and intrigue in its purest form. Great book, recommended to all'Marg J., bookseller 'A fascinating, often uncomfortable, but thoroughly engrossing read' Sarah B. `Sweden's latest blockbuster thriller lives up to the hype' Washington Post

QUICKSAND is an incisive courtroom thriller and a drama that raises questions about the nature of love, the disastrous side effects of guilt, and the function of justice.
A mass shooting has taken place at a prep school in Stockholm’s wealthiest suburb. Maja Norberg is eighteen years old and on trial for her involvement in the massacre where her boyfriend and best friend were killed. When the novel opens, Maja has spent nine excruciating months in jail awaiting trial. Now the time has come for her to enter the courtroom. But how did Maja, the good girl next door who was popular and excelled at school, become the most hated teenager in the country? What did Maja do? Or is it what she didn’t do that brought her here?

“…a remarkable new novel…[that] in some ways recalls “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” but because Maja narrates her own story, we come to know her more intimately than we do Lisbeth Salander… The story alternates between courtroom scenes and Maja’s richly detailed memories… The author, Malin Persson Giolito, carries us deep into the lives of these star-crossed lovers and the decadent society that shaped them… Giolito, who practiced law before she turned to fiction, writes with exceptional skill. She seems to know everything about Stockholm’s rich and the ways of teenage girls. Her story examines the corrosive effects of vast wealth. Even the novel’s title, “Quicksand,” suggests a world that will suck in, swallow and devour the unwary. Giolito always shows sympathy for Maja, who is variously brave, confused, self-destructive and beset by problems she doesn’t understand… always smart and engrossing. We race along to learn whether Maja’s lawyer can save her. Or whether, in fact, prison may be where she belongs. Giolito keeps us guessing a long time and the outcome, when it arrives, is just as it should be.” —The Washington Post 

“Giolito’s astonishing English-language debut (she has published three other books in her native Sweden) is a dark exploration of the crumbling European social order and the psyche of rich Swedish teens. It alternates between courtroom and jailhouse scenes and life before a school shooting, telling the firstperson story of Maja, a rich-girl-accused-shooter who is perfectly portrayed as obsessed with the actions of others and simultaneously jaded beyond belief by them. Maja is said to have shot classmates in a pact with her boyfriend, and the broad details of the crime aren’t in dispute; rather the trial hinges on what exactly happened and why. In crafting a first-person narrative told by a school shooter, many authors would go too far, creating an overly likable character; Giolito masterfully walks this fine line, developing a protagonist whom readers will remain intrigued by and ambivalent about, but whom they won’t necessarily like. Giolito’s past as a lawyer and as a European Union official poke through the pages as she exposes the cutting racism that refugees in Europe endure, even in supposed left-wing-idyll Sweden. Praise must also go to translator Willson-Broyles, as the incisive language that’s on display here surely involves translation precision that’s second to none.”
—Booklist, Starred Review
“Quicksand is a novel that begins like a parlor game gone awry: On its first page, a little cross section of contemporary Swedish society – a right-on homeroom teacher, a Ugandan foster child, a cashmere-clad blonde, a son of Middle Eastern immigrants – lies on the floor, splattered with blood, as if darkly satirizing the country’s self-image of civilized multiculturalism…What we’re reading here is not so much Maria’s unfiltered thoughts as her speech to an imaginary audience: Mostly we listen in as she tries to make sense of what happened, but she occasionally addresses us directly, speculating as to what assumptions we might make about her and what comfy delusions we may be harboring about ourselves. The voice is uneven, unpredictable in a way that feels characteristic of a teenager…the novel is structured as a courtroom procedural, yet it clearly has ambitions beyond that, addressing Sweden’s underlying economic and racial tensions…” — New York Times Book Review

“Quicksand is Persson Giolito’s fourth novel and her first to be translated from Swedish into English. Translator Rachel Willson-Broyles smoothly renders Maja’s voice, by turns cynical and yearning, hard-edged and vulnerable. Paired with a knack for deadpan dialogue, this voice presents a realistic impression of an 18-year-old woman, one charged with the most heinous crime in her country’s recent memory. The strength and poignancy of Maja’s nuanced voice command sympathy, even though she has–perhaps–done terrible things.
The central question of the novel is, of course, Maja’s guilt or innocence…Meanwhile, Maja’s story imperceptibly expands to take on larger questions and issues: class and immigration, race and racism, criminal justice systems and the media, the consequences of wealth and leisure, love and obsession, what is owed by a parent to a child. The false dichotomy of guilt and innocence plays a central role. It is to Persson Giolito’s great credit that such weighty topics move smoothly through a plot that is taut and relentless, even as its protagonist passes monotonous days in a prison cell.
Quicksand is a novel focused on a school shooting, but in no way feels hackneyed or dependent on its timeliness. In fact, it’s not really about a school shooting at all. It’s about larger abstractions, like loyalty and codependence, love and guilt, the incredibly complicated business of being a teenager, criminal justice systems (Sweden’s in particular, and as a concept), the role of the media and what a parent’s job entails. Expert dialogue and irresistible momentum make an all-too-realistic story come breathing off the page. It’s a novel that demands compassion, and an appreciation for the fine gradations of situations that tend to be treated as black and white. Part courtroom thriller, part introspection, Quicksand is pulled tight throughout by the suspense, not only of Maja’s verdict, but of the elusive “truth” of what really happened in the classroom that day.” — Shelf Awareness
”Sharp social commentary through the tragic story of a young woman’s trial for mass murder.Swedish novelist Giolito begins her English-language debut with a powerful view of a crime scene. To the narrator, 18-year-old Maja, her fellow classmates are still in the present tense, the horror not yet real. As she tells her tale we understand that she is at the center of a school shooting perpetrated by her boyfriend, Sebastian Fagerman, and the question is whether she is complicit. Both teenagers come from privileged backgrounds, she from a loving home she has no patience for, and he the son of “the richest man in Sweden,” who verbally abuses him. Giolito keeps the narrative moving quickly, alternating between the present tense of Maja’s jail cell and the courtroom and her memories of parties and travels with her jet-setting boyfriend, though as Maja says, “there are no chapters in this mess.” That mess takes in the uneasy place of race in modern-day Sweden and the voracious press that amplifies the details of everything in Maja’s young life. There is no suspense in the shooting of Amanda, Maja’s best friend, or of Sebastian. She did it and admits to it. The literary anticipation here is in the telling of the tale, the facts that turn the story to something else, and yes, the verdict. The rhythm, tone, and language are just right, due in great part to the fine translation by Willson-Broyles. Giolito gives us the unsettling monologue of a teenage girl as she works her way through her role in murder. It is a splendid work of fiction.” — Kirkus Reviews
“Brilliantly conceived and executed, this extraordinary legal thriller is not to be missed by fans of the genre.” — Library Journal, Starred Review

“QUICKSAND is Persson Giolito’s fourth crime novel and takes its cue from a mass killing, such as the one in Norway in 2011 . . . Its main protagonist, the 18-year old,
Maja Norberg, is a popular student who survives a school rampage. Set as a flashback, prior to the gory event, the plot trails Maja’s past to find out whether she participated in the murdering. She has been accused, being the only one to survive, and waits in jail for her trial. This alone would not have been enough to get this book included in this month's column. But Persson Giolito’s craft takes us on a psychological ride, where perhaps the narrator of the story is not as reliable as first thought. She met a questionable character, Sebastian Fagerman, prior to the massacre. Little by little, we can hear the cogs of her internal life flicker with strange sounds. As she is swept off her feet, alienating everyone in her immediate circle, we ponder if her outcries are not simply screams for help . . . that everyone missed.” — The Huffington Post
“QUICKSAND is a compelling, multi-layered study of a terrible school shooting, one that becomes the coming-of-age story of Maja Norberg, its 18 year old female narrator who is the sole survivor of the massacre and who now stands trial as the most hated person in all of Sweden. The suspenseful courtroom drama is meant to reveal the ‘truth’about what really happened, This psychological thriller, the first of Giolito’s four novels to be translated into English, rates as a fairly compulsive read. She is particularly incisive sketching and surveying the privileged lives of her teenagers.” — The Boston Herald

“Imagine Steig Larsson meets The Most Dangerous Place on Earth, and you’ve got a great idea of the sharp insight and cunningly skilled writing that you’re in for here, for this novel was everything that Dangerous Place was trying to be. Giolito not only weaves an incredibly incisive and pulsating story, but she also manages to tackle serious social and economic issues with stunning clarity that made me sit up and re-read her passages.”— NAVI Review

“Quicksand is a whydunit, not a whodunit. What exactly did Maja do—or not do? Seeking that answer, Persson Giolito employs the young woman in broader queries. What is “truth”? Or “justice”? How unequal can a society become while remaining stable?”— World Literature Today

“These underpinnings within the novel touch upon some very existential dilemmas that we all must face in life. Maja, with hours and hours alone in her cell, reflects and ponders her role in the tragedy as well as her role in the world. This would be heady stuff for a person well-traveled and decades into a lifetime; for a teenage girl just beginning life’s journey with every opportunity seemingly before her, the situation is nearly crippling. Like slowly drowning in quicksand. Giolito has written a revelatory novel that’s worth reading and referencing as a fine work of fiction.” – Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star

“Touching on themes such as family, love, lust, substance abuse, anger, fear, and abuse, Giolito’s complex story reveals the darkness that can live within a person, and how that darkness can manifest in the world. At the same time, we are shown the sensationalization and glamourization of crime in the media, and the profound impact that journalism can have on the perception of suspects and the victims. A lawyer herself, Giolito gives us an unhindered account of the tricks and tools lawyers employ to make and win their arguments within the confines of the courtroom…Giolito masterfully leaves us to speculate our own outcome.” – Worn Pages and Ink

“Quicksand stands out for several reasons: Maja’s absorbing (and self-absorbed) narration, the ruthless psychological portrayal of the main characters, the crisp and realistic dialogue, and Persson Giolito’s incisive analytical powers. You will tear through this 495-page ‘case study’ with the single-minded intensity that only the best novels produce. And it will give you much to ponder in the weeks and months after you have read it.” – Read Her Like an Open Book