Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit





Unit rationale, description and aim

The novel has a history spanning two millennia, but during the past 300 years, it has become the dominant genre of imaginative writing in the world, opening up new ways of understanding and articulating human experience. The novel, moreover, forms an indispensable part of appreciating the dignity of the individual and human diversity, since the empathy demanded by the patient reading of novels makes reading itself an ethical act.

In this unit, students will engage with the thinking that happens in the novel and find new ways of thinking about the novel. The unit is designed to offer an openness and flexibility of approaches by which the student moves from the acquisition of knowledge to the application of that knowledge and the development of skills to consider the unique thinking of particular novels. However, they will also want to explore works (e.g. of philosophy, science, visual art, music) that are not novels, but which offer new interdisciplinary approaches to reading or thinking about the novel. 

The aim of this unit is to situate itself at the border of many disciplines and is designed to make ‘novel thinking’ happen in dynamic new ways every time the unit is taught.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Acquire an advanced, integrated, research-based knowledge of the thinking in the novel together with the conceptual, theoretical, and ethical impacts of texts drawn from, and related to, novels or other texts of “novel thinking” (GA3, GA4, GA5, GA7, GA8)

LO2 - Interpret the literary, social, historical, philosophical, political, aesthetic, religious, and/or ethical implications of texts drawn from, and related to, the rise of the novel or “novel thinking” (GA1, GA4, GA5, GA7, GA8, GA9)

LO3 - Apply the knowledge described above in advanced, graduate-level written communication (GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA7, GA8, GA9, GA10)

LO4 - Critically evaluate and synthesise knowledge, concepts, and theories connected to the novel from diverse sources and communicate complex ideas and findings with sophistication and confidence to a range of audiences in diverse contexts (GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA7, GA8, GA9, GA10)

Graduate attributes

GA1 - demonstrate respect for the dignity of each individual and for human diversity

GA3 - apply ethical perspectives in informed decision making

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA6 - solve problems in a variety of settings taking local and international perspectives into account

GA7 - work both autonomously and collaboratively 

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 

GA10 - utilise information and communication and other relevant technologies effectively.


Topics and/or authors may include:

  • The status of a fictional or possible world inside and outside the novel – e.g. Cervantes, Leibniz
  • Thinkers whose writings have been called novelistic, or novelists whose writing raises questions about thinking – e.g. Hegel, Henry James, Virginia Woolf
  • Psychologists interested in novelists and novelists interested in psychology – e.g. Freud, Dostoevsky
  • Artists who influence, or have been influenced by, or illuminate, the thinking of the novel – e.g. Wagner and modernism
  • Novelists whose novels may think differently than they do – e.g. Tolstoy
  • Novel thinking about the novel – Beckett, Kafka, Robbe-Grillet, Mary Shelley
  • Novel thinking about the style of the novel – Flaubert
  • Melville
  • Novels that raised ethical challenges in relation to human diversity and assumptions about ideas of class, race or gender (George Eliot, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Radclyffe Hall, the Brontës, and others)

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit is designed and delivered in a small-group face-to-face mode which facilitates the use of the Socratic method. It will immerse students in active learning through cooperative dialogue designed to stimulate critical thinking and challenge pre-existing assumptions. Learning exercises will facilitate the development of skills fundamental to the discipline of literary studies and to facilitate the interaction of students with guest speakers, when available. In addition to close reading of a range of novels, extracts of novels, or works that illuminate some aspect of thinking in the novel, students will participate in writing activities, interpreting and evaluating texts, and critical and argumentative debates

This is a 10-credit point unit and has been designed to ensure that the time needed to complete the required volume of learning to the requisite standard is approximately 150 hours in total across the semester. To achieve a passing standard in this unit, students will find it helpful to engage in the full range of learning activities and assessments utilised in this unit. The learning and teaching and assessment strategies include a range of approaches to support learning such as reading, reflection, and discussion.

Assessment strategy and rationale

This 600-level unit is designed to include assessment tasks that build content knowledge and higher-order research and analytic skills. 

The close reading task requires students to produce a patient, graduate-level, interdisciplinary analysis of the great books. As the Unit Rationale, Description and Aim make clear, and as the Content underscores, the topic of this unit does not sit comfortably within any disciplinary norm. The novel belongs not only to the discipline of literature but also to philosophy, psychology, music, and politics, inter-alia. It is appropriate for this unit that the close reading task demands the crossing of disciplinary norms in its analysis.

The research essay requires students to produce a theoretically acute, graduate-level, interdisciplinary analysis of key texts on a topic proposed in consultation with the instructor. It is intended to develop skills in locating and evaluating sources on a cultural text, developing a sustained evidence-based argument, and active engagement with key theory debates.

The assessment tasks for this unit have been designed to contribute to high-quality student learning by both helping students learn (assessment for learning), and by measuring explicit evidence of their learning (assessment of learning). Assessments have been developed to meet the unit learning outcomes and develop graduate attributes consistent with the University’s assessment requirements. These have been designed so that they use a variety of tasks to measure the different learning outcomes at a level suitable for graduate studies in the subject area. 

Minimum Achievement Standards

The assessment tasks and their weighting for this unit are designed to demonstrate achievement of each learning outcome. In order to pass this unit, students are required to submit all assessment tasks, meet the learning outcomes of the unit and achieve a minimum overall passing grade of 50%.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Assessment Task 1: Close reading: challenging disciplinary norms

This task requires students to produce analyses that challenge disciplinary norms.


LO1, LO2

GA1, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA7, GA8, GA9

Assessment Task 2: Research Essay

This task requires students to produce a theoretically acute, graduate-level, interdisciplinary analysis of key texts or authors on a topic proposed in consultation with the instructor.


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4

GA1, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA7, GA8, GA9, GA10

Representative texts and references

Bakhtin, Mikhail, The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays, trans. by Caryl Emerson (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010. [1975])

Bigongiari, Giulia, ‘Virginia Woolf and the Emotional Work of Reading George Eliot: A Case Study in Reader–Author Relationships’ Orbis Litterarum 77. 3 (2022),143–58.

Hale, Dorothy, The Novel and the New Ethics (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2020)

Jameson, Fredric, Antinomies of Realism (New York: Verso, 2013)

Lukács, Georg, Theory of the Novel (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1974)

McKean, Michael, Origins of the English Novel, 16001740 (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002

O’Connell, Lisa, The Origins of the English Marriage Plot: Literature, Politics, and Religion in the Eighteenth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019

Pippin, Robert, Henry James and Modern Moral Life (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000)

Sodeman, Melissa, Sentimental Memorials: Women and the Novel in Literary History (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 2015)

Weiss, Deborah. The Female Philosopher and Her Afterlives: Mary Wollstonecraft, the British Novel, and the Transformations of Feminism, 1796-1811. 1st ed. 2017. Cham: Springer International Publishing, 2017.

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