Marilynne Robinson’s first novel, Housekeeping, was shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction in 1982. In 2005, she was awarded the Pulitzer for her second novel, Gilead. In this seminar we will read both novels; a subsequent seminar will focus on Robinson’s third and fourth novels, which take up and expand upon the story told in Gilead.
All novels are concerned with questions of family, home, memory, and the often fraught nature of human relationships. In Housekeeping, two sisters struggle towards maturity amidst tragic and complicated family circumstances. Set in a hauntingly atmospheric Idaho town, Robinson’s lyrical story blends the mundane and the mythical and confronts us with both the beauty and the difficulty of love. Gilead takes the form of journal entries, written by elderly Iowa minister Reverend John Ames for his young son. Ames’s memories and meditations—upon life, death, faith, family, and human imperfection—ultimately reveal insights into his own beliefs and behavior. In Ames, Robinson has created a narrator so poignantly human we forget he is fictional (and wish he weren’t).
We will explore both the novels’ themes and Robinson’s craftsmanship, paying close attention not only to narrative, but to structure and language.
Schedule of Readings
Weeks 1-3 – Housekeeping
Week 1 – Before first meeting, please read Chapters 1-4 (pp. 3-75)
Week 2 – Chapters 5-7 (pp. 76-142)
Week 3 – Chapters 8-11 (pp. 143-219)
Weeks 4-6 – Gilead
Week 4 – pp. 3-76
Week 5 – pp. 77-164
Week 6 – pp. 165-247
*Page numbers correspond to the editions listed above
Delve Access Program
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