21L.315 | Spring 2014 | Undergraduate

Prizewinners: Nobelistas

Instructor Insights

Course Overview

This page focuses on the course 21L.315 Prizewinners: Nobelistas as it was taught by senior lecturer Wyn Kelley in Spring 2014.

This course, worth six instead of the typical twelve credits, drew attention to the thirteen female Nobel laureates, or Nobelistas, in Literature. We read novels or stories by five fiction writers—Gordimer, Morrison, Lessing, Müller, and Munro—with particular attention to narrative patterns in the texts, the socio-historical context of each writer, and critical reception of these works. Questions about how the Nobel Prize functions and is understood and about how Literature relates to the other Nobel subject areas—Peace, Chemistry, Physics, Medicine, Economic Sciences—featured in our discussions, too.

Course Outcomes

Course Goals for Students

  • Read novels and stories by fiction writers that may be unfamiliar
  • Attend to and find connections between the narrative patterns in the Nobel prize-winning texts
  • Gain an understanding of the socio-historical contexts in which the authors wrote
  • Discuss the critical reception of the featured works

Instructor Interview

"There was a real sense of community in the class. They had such esprit de corps!"
—Wyn Kelley

In the following pags, Wyn Kelley describes various aspects of how she taught 21L.315 Prizewinners: Nobelistas.

Curriculum Information



Requirements Satisfied



Prizewinners is a Samplings course offered every spring and fall; each offering focuses on different authors.


The students’ grades were based on the following activities:

  • 30% Response papers (2 total)
  • 10% In-class presentation
  • 30% Essay
  • 30% Participation

Student Information


24 students

Breakdown by Year

Mostly undergraduates, with one or two graduate students.

Breakdown by Major

Students were from many different departments.

Typical Student Background

The class included both sophisticated literature students and students who hadn’t taken many literature classes before Prizewinners: Nobelistas. Several of the sophisticated students acted as leaders and encouraged others to participate.

The class typically includes students who speak English as a second language or who have not grown up in the United States. In Spring 2014, some students were from central European countries and could identify with the politics in Müller’s The Appointment. Some students identified as Latina/o and responded strongly to the stories about leaving one’s country, losing one’s identity, or speaking a different language. They noted that they took the class because it gave them an opportunity to connect with ideas that they weren’t able to talk about in their other classes.

Enrollment Cap

Enrollment is limited to 20-25 students so as to allow for interactive seminar discussions and one-on-one conferences between the instructor and students.

How Student Time Was Spent

This half-semster course met for 7 weeks. During an average week, students were expected to spend 12 hours on the course, roughly divided as follows:

In Class

  • Met 2 times per week for 1.5 hour per session; 13 sessions total; mandatory attendance
  • Class discussion
  • In-class presentation with a partner

Out of Class

  • 1 one-on-one conference with instructor (roughly half way through the course)
  • Complete readings
  • Complete writing assignments
  • Prepare in-class presentation

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2014
Learning Resource Types
Presentation Assignments
Instructor Insights