Course Details

961: Discussion of Ragtime, the Novel by E.L. Doctorow From Literary and Historical Perspectives

July 11-15
1:45 PM - 3:15 PM

Ragtime is probably the best-known novel by the recently deceased renowned American novelist E.L. Doctorow. Each of his 12 novels is situated in a different decade of American history beginning in the 1860s with The March. Ragtime takes place during the opening years of the 20th century and shows how the great social and economic changes of that period were reflected in the changing lives of three fictional families from different socioeconomic strata of New York society, who come to interact with each other through the intermediation of several fictionalized real celebrities of the time, including Evelyn Nesbitt and Emma Goldman. Many other significant historical personages also appear in the book, among them JP Morgan, Henry Ford, Freud, Stanford White, and Houdini. Doctorow delights the readers by letting them in on his wry, powerful, and subtle social criticism concealed in seemingly simple declarative sentences. In addition to giving a real feeling for how it was to live in this pre-WW I period, Ragtime is an amazing literary masterpiece.

This will be a discussion class with emphasis on both the literary and historical achievements of the novel, in which not one word is wasted, and much can be read between the lines. It is strongly advised to read the whole book in advance of class, since it does not have a plot that can be followed chronologically. The (bad, in my opinion) movie of the same name is a gross distortion of the novel, and should not be watched as a substitutein fact, I advise against watching it at all, or at least until after reading the book.

Class Type: Reading and Discussion

Class Format: Online

Hours of Reading: 2+ hours/session

Study Group Leader(s):

Dorothy Marschak

Most of Dorothy Marschak's professional life was spent in teaching and research in academiaEconomics (Barnard and UCLA) and Statistics (UCBerkely), with many grad courses also in her non-PhD areas. She also has worked with governments and in international development (as World Bank consultant). In 1998 she founded, and has been running since then, CHIME (Community Help In Music Education), an award-winning DC non-profit.

Reading List:

Ragtime (E.L. Doctorow) | 1974: Random House | ISBN: 0-394-4901-1 | Required