Sonia Werner

PhD, New York University. Interests include comparative literature; world literature, philosophy and critical theory, aesthetics and politics, realism and representation, nationalism and internationalism, theories and practices of performance, the global 19th century; and the novel. Werner is a visiting assistant professor at New York University’s master’s program in experimental humanities and social engagement and also teaches at the Gallatin School of Individualized Study. Her current book project, Fringe Realisms: Belated Nations and the Invention of a Useable Present, examines realism’s relationship to nation formation in regions characterized by national and industrial belatedness. Her research has been published in Novel: A Forum on Fiction and is forthcoming in Diacritics. SLC, 2019-

Undergraduate Courses 2019-2020


Genre Trouble: The Novel, Modernity, and the Global 19th Century

Open , Seminar—Spring

Marked by the rise of industrial capitalism, the expansion of empire, and the development of new technologies of transportation, communication, and reproduction, the 19th century might also be understood as the veritable age of the novel. But what is the novel? And what is “novel” about it? How does the novel challenge and elude established definitions of genre and narrative? How does it relate to the concepts of modernity and originality? What is its relationship to gender, sexuality, and the rise of the bourgeoisie? What, if any, are the novel’s formal elements? How does it fulfill its oft-made promise to represent the world around us? In this course, we will attempt to answer these questions by reading a range of literary works by authors including Friedrich Schlegel, Mary Shelley, George Sand, Honoré de Balzac, Leo Tolstoy, Joaquim Machado de Assis, N. G. Chernyshevsky, Jeremias Gotthelf, Charlotte Brontë, and Jean Rhys. In addition to questioning the novel’s “origins,” we will examine its aesthetic and political dimensions by reading key theoretical texts by authors such as Erich Auerbach, Georg Lukács, Roland Barthes, Naomi Schor, Mikhail Bakhtin, Ian Watt, Benedict Anderson, Edward Said, Homi Bhabha, Partha Chatterjee, Gayatri Spivak, and Sara Ahmed.


Getting Real: Reality, Representation, and the Rise of Everyday Life

Open , Seminar—Fall

At a moment when popular culture is obsessed with reality television and new technology permits “real-time” access to current events, this course examines the concept of reality as it relates to literature and philosophy. What is reality, and how can we know it? How can we grasp the metaphysical, political, and aesthetic dimensions of the “real”? We will begin the course by examining philosophical works by Plato, G. H. Hegel, and Karl Marx before evaluating a range of literature from the 19th century by authors including Nikolai Gogol, Herman Melville, Vissarion Belinsky, Charles Baudelaire, Gustave Flaubert, Charles Dickens, and Edgar Allen Poe. We will explore how those works engage concepts of realism, modernity, the city, and the rise of visual culture. We will then discuss their relation to more contemporary theoretical and literary texts by authors such as Walter Benjamin, Maurice Blanchot, Frantz Fanon, Henri Lefebvre, Teju Cole, Susan Sontag, Guys Debord, and Claudia Rankine to probe deeply into the category of everyday life and explore questions concerning race, gender, and the experience of modern life. Lastly, we will consider the force of the photographic image in the 19th century, as well as within our own contemporary moment. This is an active learning course that sets out to make sense of our lived experience.