The Impostor Novel: Impersonators and Charlatans in Modern Fiction

Course Outline:

This course examines the representation of people who are not who they claim to be -- impostors, impersonators and charlatans -- in modern literary fiction from the nineteenth century to the present day. We will consider both the ethics of impersonation (with a particular focus on questions of trust, deceit and manipulation) and the aesthetics of impersonation (the narrative conventions that have evolved to conceal and reveal the figure of the impostor). The course will provide students with a detailed knowledge of different kinds of impersonation and different motives for imposture; it will consider the affinities and differences between impostor narratives and other major narrative traditions, such as the Bildungsroman and the detective novel; and it will reflect on why the figure of the impostor occupies such a significant and problematic place in the modern imagination.