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E070 the Novel

E070 the Novel

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Sections

  • Introduction
  • Subject objectives
  • Content
  • Suggested primary reading
  • Suggested topics
  • Advice on reading
  • Secondary reading
  • Suggested study syllabus
  • The origins and rise of the novel (weeks 1–2)
  • Genre and sub-genre
  • Narrative technique and theory: character
  • Narrative voice and perspective
  • Narrative structure and chronology
  • Narrative theory
  • Realism and mimesis
  • Self-conscious fiction
  • Gender
  • The role of the reader
  • Using this subject guide
  • Methods of assessment
  • Preparing for the examination
  • Essential reading
  • Recommended secondary reading on Austen
  • The debate on Austen
  • Austen and the novel
  • Mansfield Park: the rhetoric of realism
  • Persuasion: subjectivity and narrative voice
  • Suggestions for further study
  • Learning outcomes
  • Recommended secondary reading
  • Further reading
  • Background
  • The Human Comedy cycle
  • Realism
  • Characterisation
  • Contrast
  • Sensation, genre, mystery and melodrama
  • Themes
  • Narrative voice
  • Language
  • The history of Gothic
  • Gothic elements in Fowles and Murdoch
  • The cultural politics of modern Gothic
  • Gender issues
  • Class issues
  • Sample essay questions
  • Post-modernism: problems of definition
  • Describing post-modernism: Harvey and Jameson
  • White Noise: the simulated culture of post- modernity
  • Prescribing post-modernism: Lyotard
  • City of Glass: post-modernism and metafiction
  • Appendix
  • Sample examination paper

The Novel

BA English

J. Cohen, J. Desmarais, B. Moore-Gilbert J. T. Parnell 2002 0033E070

This guide was prepared for the University of London by: J. Cohen, Phd, Lecturer in English, Goldsmiths College, University of London J. Desmarais, MA, PhD, Lecturer in English and Art History, Departments of English, and Historical and Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths College, University of London B. Moore-Gilbert, MA, DPhil, Reader in English, Goldsmiths College, University of London J.T. Parnell, PhD, Lecturer in English, Goldsmiths College, University of London. This is one of a series of subject guides published by the University. We regret that due to pressure of work the authors are unable to enter into any correspondence relating to, or arising from, the guide. If you have any comments on this subject guide, favourable or unfavourable, please use the form at the back of this guide.

The External System Publications Office University of London Stewart House, Ground Floor 32 Russell Square London WC1B 5DN United Kingdom www.londonexternal.ac.uk

Published by: University of London Press © University of London 2002. Printed by: Central Printing Service, University of London, England

BA and Diploma in English

Correction

033E070 The Novel
December 2008: First correction

Students should note the following examiners’ changes for the 2009 examinations onwards:

033E070 The novel There is one change to the demands of Section B: ‘Answers in this section should refer to AT LEAST TWO different authors. You may NOT write about an author or text that you have discussed in Section A.’ Thus, students preparing for the examination in this unit should prepare at least six texts by three different authors.

.

..........................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................27 Recommended secondary reading ......................................14 Preparing for the examination ...................28 Introduction ............................6 Study questions and recommended secondary reading for suggested study topics ........21 Persuasion: subjectivity and narrative voice .........................................................................10 Realism and mimesis ..............................1 Suggested primary reading ......................................................12 The role of the reader .....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................3 Advice on reading ...................................................................................7 The origins and rise of the novel (weeks 1–2) ............................3 Secondary reading ..............................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................14 Chapter 1: Section A author study: Jane Austen ..............................................................................................................4 Suggested study syllabus ..11 Modernist and postmodernist fiction ..........................................................................................................................................19 Mansfield Park: the rhetoric of realism ...................................................................................................................................1 Subject objectives ..........................................31 Realism ........................17 Essential reading ........................................................13 Methods of assessment ...............................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................Contents Contents Introduction ..11 Gender .....................27 Essential reading ...................................................11 Self-conscious fiction ..................9 Narrative voice and perspective ...27 Further reading ...........................................................................2 Suggested topics ..............................................................................................................................23 Suggestions for further study ....................................................................10 Narrative theory ....................................................................................................................................................................................................33 Contrast ....................................................29 Background ........................25 Learning outcomes ..................................................................................................................................................................................................................................8 Narrative technique and theory: character .........................................................................................................18 The debate on Austen ..................................................9 Narrative structure and chronology .............................................................................................................13 Using this subject guide ..............34 i .........17 Introduction ...............................................25 Sample essay questions ..........................................................................................................17 Recommended secondary reading on Austen ..............................................25 Chapter 2 Section A author study: Honoré de Balzac (Eugénie Grandet and Old Goriot) ..................................................................................................................................................................................................29 The Human Comedy cycle ......................................................................................7 Genre and sub-genre ...........1 Content .....................................................................................................................................................................................................................32 Characterisation ........................................................................................................................................................18 Austen and the novel ...................................................................................................

..............................47 Chapter 4: Section B topic study: post-modernism ..........................................37 Learning outcomes ....................................................................................................................................................................57 Appendix ...........................................................................................................................................................................................................51 Post-modernism: problems of definition ...36 Language .............................................................................................................................................................59 ii ................57 Learning outcomes ........................................39 Introduction ......................................................................................................................................................................................................40 Gothic elements in Fowles and Murdoch ..............................................................................................56 Suggestions for further study ............ genre..........................................................................................................................................................................................................................................49 Recommended secondary reading .......................49 Introduction ..............................41 The cultural politics of modern Gothic ...................................38 Chapter 3: Section B topic study: modern Gothic .................................................The Novel Sensation........................................................49 Essential reading ..............................................................................................................................................................................................................................................35 Themes ....................................57 Sample essay questions ..............46 Suggestions for further study ...46 Learning outcomes ....................................................................................................39 Essential reading ........................................53 Prescribing post-modernism: Lyotard ............................ mystery and melodrama ...............55 City of Glass: post-modernism and metafiction .............................................................................................................................52 White Noise: the simulated culture of post-modernity ..........................................................................43 Gender issues .......................................39 Recommended secondary reading .......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................35 Narrative voice ...........................................................................................................................40 The history of Gothic ........47 Sample essay questions ..59 Sample examination paper ........51 Describing post-modernism: Harvey and Jameson ........................................................................................44 Class issues .......................................................38 Sample essay questions ..............................................

e. but you should not feel limited by this selection.and nineteenth-century realist novels. (Self-assessment procedures are discussed in the Handbook. early twentieth-century modernist novels and some post-modern fiction. The novel. Bear in mind that you will want to explore the novel both synchronically (i. • • • • It will be useful to keep these points in mind when you set about planning your own course of study and when assessing your progress. but you are allowed to study and write on earlier material where relevant. American. 1 . Some of this subject’s main objectives will be to help you to: • gain an understanding of the development of the novel as a form of literary production from its beginnings to the present day and in relation to its social and literary contexts explore how individual novelists employ specific literary techniques in order to serve their particular narrative strategies compare how different authors have used the novel to address recurrent thematic concerns and expanded the possibilities of the form in different ways study contemporary critical debates about the novel through an engagement with secondary sources engage with the issues involved in canon formation. is a Group B advanced unit. The term ‘novel’ has been loosely applied by writers and critics to a broad range of texts but. the term will be restricted to fictional works. You are also recommended to study authors from across the British. as it passed through time). of sufficient length to be deemed ‘novels’. You should try to read at least some of the novels from this list. includes and what it leaves out. You may want to think about what this list.Introduction Introduction This subject. It will focus primarily on works originally written in English but will also consider novels in translation.e.) Content You can organise your course of study around particular authors and/or particular topics of your choice but you should try to read a representative selection of novels including eighteenth. The following list is by no means exhaustive. This subject guide focuses on novels from the eighteenth century to the present. a ‘canon’ of sorts. as it exists at a given moment without reference to its past) and diachronically (i. European and non-Western traditions. written in prose. it is a selection of important and influential novels you may care to study. the selection of texts will inevitably be more limited to European novels. Subject objectives This subject is designed to help you to gain an understanding of a form central to English literature and literary studies more generally. for the purposes of this subject. When studying the earlier history of the genre.

Chinua Achebe Things Fall Apart (1958). Virginia Woolf Mrs Dalloway (1925). Vladimir Nabokov Lolita (1958) or Pale Fire (1962). Joseph Conrad Heart of Darkness (1902) or Nostromo (1904). Ann Radcliffe The Romance of the Forest (1791) or The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794). or. Edith Wharton The Age of Innocence (1920). published 1966–1967). or the History of the Royal Slave (1688). Rita Mae Brown The Rubyfruit Jungle (1969). George Eliot Middlemarch (1871–1872). indicate year of publication. *Dorothy Richardson. *Marcel Proust Remembrance of Things Past (1913–1927). Frances Burney Evelina (1778). Aphra Behn Oroonoko. Fyodor Dostoyevsky Crime and Punishment (1866). Herman Melville Moby-Dick. Iris Murdoch The Unicorn (1963).) • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • François Rabelais Gargantua and Pantagruel (1532–1534). 2 .The Novel Suggested primary reading (Dates in parentheses. Henry Fielding Joseph Andrews (1742) or Tom Jones (1749). Lev Nikolaevich Tolstoy Anna Karenina (1873–1877). Johann Wolfgang von Goethe The Sorrows of Young Werther (1774) or Elective Affinities (1809). Pierre Choderlos de Laclos Les Liaisons Dangereuses (1782). The Whale (1851). Doris Lessing The Golden Notebook (1962). Charles Dickens Hard Times (1854). Emile Zola Germinal (1885). Gustave Flaubert Madame Bovary (1857) or The Sentimental Education (1869). unless otherwise stated. Eliza Haywood Love in Excess (1719). *Jane Austen Mansfield Park (1814) and Persuasion (1818). Thomas Pynchon The Crying of Lot 49 (1966). Rabindranath Tagore Home in the World (1916). *Honoré de Balzac Eugénie Grandet (1833-34) and Pere Goriot (1835). Gabriel García Màrquez One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967). John Fowles The Collector (1963). Laurence Sterne The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy (1759–1767). Mikhail Bulgakov The Master and the Margarita (1928–1940. Henry James The Spoils of Poynton (1897). Maria Edgeworth Belinda (1801). Daniel Defoe Robinson Crusoe (1719) or Moll Flanders (1722). Italo Calvino If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller (1979). John Bunyan The Pilgrim’s Progress (1678–1684). Alain Robbe-Grillet In the Labyrinth (1959). James Joyce Ulysses (1922). Zora Neale Hurston Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937). Salman Rushdie Midnight’s Children (1981). Samuel Richardson Pamela (1740) or Clarissa (1747–1748). Philip Sidney The Arcadia (1581). Pilgrimage (1915-38). Emily Brontë Wuthering Heights (1847). Miguel de Cervantes Don Quixote (1605–1615).

there is no one book or grouping of books that can adequately cover the whole content. *Proust’s and Dorothy Richardson’s novels unfold over several volumes. and the development of the novel in modernist. This means that for your study of 3 . The books recommended below and elsewhere in this study guide address most of the central concerns of the course. but when you focus on particular authors and topics you may want to supplement this reading with more specialised studies. Furthermore. it is not practical to provide booklists for each of the authors listed above. Margaret Atwood The Handmaid’s Tale (1985). Although you may want to read them in their entirety.M. The alternative traditions of self-conscious fiction. including issues of narrative voice and perspective. Advice on reading Because of the wide range of this subject. The development of realism and the concept of mimesis. Although you will be studying individual novelists as well as topics. and the relationship between the novel and the rise of the bourgeoisie. The role of gender in the novel. • • • • • • Other topics. including the dominance of realism in the nineteenth century and its partial rejection in the twentieth century. which are not listed here. Paul Auster. novels are listed as essential reading in Chapter 1 and 2. the concept of character and narrative structure. you will gain a worthwhile sense of what these writers are doing by reading the first volumes in the sequences (Proust’s Swann’s Way and Richardson’s Pointed Roofs). its generic hybridity and the sub genres into which it is divided. including ideas about the relationship between the early novel and a rapidly expanding print culture. the primary concern of this subject is not with particular novelists but with the novel as a genre. Narrative technique and narrative theory. Critical accounts of the rise of the novel. Suggested topics Some topics which you may like to investigate are listed below. and the two Balzac. Genre. Robert Coover Pinocchio in Venice (1991). The role of the reader.Introduction • • • • • • • J. Thus the reading recommended below and in the suggested reading organised by topic in Chapter 4 covers broad issues rather than a core syllabus of novels or novelists. White Noise (1985). Coetzee The Life and Times of Michael K (1983). City of Glass (1987). postmodernist and postcolonial fiction. • • The origins of the novel and its relationship with epic and romance. Beloved (1987). Toni Morrison. All of these are relevant to the study of the novel – though you need not restrict yourself to them. Angela Carter Nights at the Circus (1984). Don Delillo. including questions about the novel’s defining characteristics (and whether such characteristics are historically specific). in order to allow you the freedom to make your own selection of novels for close study. might occur to you as you study. *The two Austen.

A fluent study of the ‘tradition’ of self-conscious novelists who question and parody dominant novel-types. A very useful collection of essays by some of the major commentators on questions of narrative theory. 1975) [ISBN 0-520-02755-8]. so if you want to find out more about. 1953) [ISBN 0-691-01269-5 (pbk)]. London: University of California Press. Trask. (Harmondsworth: Penguin. George Eliot was written in the 1950s you may have a limited idea of the range of critical responses to this writer. etc.M. the kind of short. Mikhail M. You will know from your work on the foundation units that the nature of English studies has changed radically over the last 20 years. Translated by Annette Lavers and Colin Smith. Jeremy Studying the Novel. Michael J. Holquist. should produce lists of Cervantes’ writing. The constraints of time make it impossible for you to read very widely on particular authors. the bibliographies in such books are a good starting place. So the entry ‘Cervantes’. A clear. Most libraries have computerised indexing which will cross-reference. If all the criticism that you read on. Flaubert’s Madame Bovary you should look for a collection of essays or a single book which aims to provide an introductory overview.69220-0 (pbk)]. if basic. Rimmon-Kenan. but also biographies. The Dialogic Imagination. do not assume that criticism from an earlier date is necessarily redundant. Wayne C. (Austin: University of Texas Press. and Patrick D. *Auerbach. introduction to many of the key issues and topics. The author traces the gradual raising of low-life mimesis to the level of high art and offers a close analysis of passages. Shlomith (1983) Narrative Fiction: Contemporary Poetics. with the help of the Handbook and bearing the following in mind. Erich Mimesis: the Representation of Reality in Western Literature. Other recommended books Alter. Murphy (eds) Essentials of the Theory of Fiction. Booth. Bear this in mind. Bakhtin. 4 . 1982) [ISBN 0-292-71534-X]. 1991) second edition [ISBN 0-14-013736-X (pbk)]. (London and New York: Routledge. NJ: Princeton University Press. 1984) [ISBN 0-224-02267-9]. Edited by M. (Berkeley. Roland (1967) Writing Degree Zero. an Introduction. Barthes. Hoffman. Although they are not available for all the novels that you might study. *Bakhtin. Translated by W. Four Essays by M. At the same time. 1996) second edition [ISBN 0-7185-0119-5 (hbk). say. A brief but elegant statement of a post-modernist rejection of realism in France. An excellent introduction to the theory of narratology using a wide range of international texts.The Novel authors and topics not listed above or discussed in this subject guide you will need to compile your own reading lists. (London and New York: Arnold. say. (1983) The Rhetoric of Fiction. for example. If you want to pursue your reading further. 1997) third edition [ISBN 0-340. Secondary reading Essential texts Hawthorn. critical discussions of individual novels offered by a series like the Cambridge ‘Landmarks of World Literature’ will generally provide sufficient information on given texts. (Princeton. (London: Leicester University Press. A highly influential and admirably clear study of the ‘rhetoric’ of a wide range of American and European novels. Robert Partial Magic: The Novel as Self-Conscious Genre. 0-7185-0120-9 (pbk)]. (London: Cape. 1989) [ISBN 0-415-04294-1 (pbk)]. authoritative. critical readings.

(London: Heinemann in association with Open University Press. Forster.1980) [ISBN 0-801-49259-9 (pbk)]. Lodge. Henry The Critical Muse: Selected Literary Criticism. Mass. Umberto The Role of the Reader.) The Novel Today. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press. (Houndmills: Macmillan. 1990) [ISBN 0-415-05037-5 (hbk). 1991) [ISBN 0-415-03920-7]. Edited by Oliver Stallybrass (Harmondsworth: Penguin. (New York and London: Norton and Co. (London and New York: Routledge. 1974) [ISBN 0-8018-2150-9 (pbk)]. 0-333-68409-5 (pbk)] Brooks. Edited by Roger Gard (Harmondsworth: Penguin.) The Nineteenth Century Novel: Critical Essays and Documents. (London: Hutchinson. Frank The Genesis of Secrecy: On the Interpretation of Narrative. Translated by Richard Miller. Paul Before Novels: The Cultural Contexts of Eighteenth-Century Fiction. NY and London: Cornell University Press and Routledge. Levin. Argues for the centrality and inevitability of political interpretations of literary texts. Zola and Proust. Kettle. Patterns of Communication in Prose Fiction from Bunyan to Beckett. the Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination. A survey of nineteenth-century realist novelists in France. 1992) [ISBN 0-140-17492-3 (pbk)]. James. A sophisticated and informative text which explores the impact of the environment. David The Modes of Modern Writing: Metaphor. Of historical interest for its influential and much debated account of ‘rounded’ and ‘flat’ characters. Genette. an Essay in Method. Eco. 1981) [ISBN 025320318X (pbk)]. (Harmondsworth: Penguin.: Harvard University Press. Couturier. Jameson. Wolfgang The Implied Reader. Especially good on Conrad. 1979). E. (Cambridge. 1977) [ISBN 0-7131-6258-9 (pbk)]. Sandra M.Introduction Barthes. (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press. Arnold (ed. 1963) [ISBN 0-19-500727-1]. 1990) [ISBN 0-393-30861-8 (pbk)]. Harry The Gates of Horn. Metonymy. Fredric The Political Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act. (Glasgow: Fontana. Translated by J. Gilbert. 1981) revised edition [ISBN 0-335-10181-X]. 1990) [ISBN 0-140-18398-1 (pbk)]. 1979) [ISBN 0674345355].: Harvard UP. André The Novel: Language and Narrative from Cervantes to Calvino. 1984) [ISBN 0674748921 (pbk)]. (New Haven and London: Yale University Press. (Cambridge. Roland (1973) S/Z. Bradbury. *Brink. *Hunter. David The Art of Fiction: Illustrated from Classic and Modern Texts. the market and the law on fiction from a materialist viewpoint. Maurice Textual Communication: A Print-based Theory of the Novel. Gérard Narrative Discourse. 1981 and 1989) [ISBN 0-415-04514-2 (pbk)].. *Lodge.68408-7 (hbk). Peter Reading for the Plot: Design and Intention in Narrative. Lewin. 5 . 1998) [ISBN 0-333. J. 0-415-05038-3 (pbk)]. a Study of Five French Realists: Stendhal.M. Mass. (Oxford: Blackwell. 1990) revised edition [ISBN 0-00-686183-0]. (London and New York: Routledge. and the Typology of Modern Literature. Argues that the reader’s experience of reading is at the centre of the reading process. Originated as a journalistic enterprise. 1990) [ISBN 0631176071]. and Susan Gubar The Madwoman in the Attic. Balzac. Reader response theory which argues that some texts are ‘open’ and others are ‘closed’. (London: Edward Arnold. but contains surprisingly useful thumbnail definitions of fictional topoi with illustrative examples. 1979) [ISBN 0-300-08458-7 (pbk)]. *Iser. 1987) [ISBN 0140432701 (pbk)]. Kermode. Flaubert. (Oxford: Oxford University Press. (Ithaca NY: Cornell University Press. (Ithaca. (1927) Aspects of the Novel. David After Bakhtin: Essays on fiction and criticism. Lodge. E. Malcolm (ed.

Georg (1955) The Historical Novel. An extensively researched. Toolan. Michael The Origins of the English Novel 1660–1740. Michael. (London: Virago. 1966) [ISBN 0195007735 (pbk)]. British Women Novelists from Brontë to Lessing. Author study: Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park and Persuasion. Waugh. (London: Routledge. Weeks 1–2: Background reading on theories of the novel and debates about its origins (i. Brian Postmodernist Fiction. 0-631-13916-8 (pbk)]. (London: Routledge. 1976) [ISBN 0-140-55081-X (pbk)]. Weeks 3–4: Week 5: Week 6: Weeks 7–8: Week 11: Week 12: Weeks 9–10: Author study: Balzac’s Eugénie Grandet and Old Goriot. (Harmondsworth: Penguin. Topic study: the genesis of the novel as a form (suggested text: Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe). Scholes. Richardson and Fielding. a Historico–Philosophic Essay on the Forms of Great Epic Literature. McHale. 1978) [ISBN 0-85036-236-9 (pbk)]. Narrative: A Critical Linguistic Introduction. 2000) [ISBN 0712664270 (pbk)].The Novel Lukács. McKeon. (Oxford: Oxford University Press. nonEurocentric study of the development of the novel in world culture. Topic study: varieties of realism (secondary reading on realism and the novel). 1986) [ISBN 0-631-13915-X (hbk). (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. Stern. (London: Prentice Hall. 1987) [ISBN 0-8018-3746-4 (pbk]. Author study: Cervantes’ Don Quixote and some secondary material. Phelps. Elaine (1977) A Literature of Their Own. * Highly recommended Suggested study syllabus Here is a sample 20-week syllabus to give you an idea of how you could structure your own syllabus for this subject. Patricia Metafiction: The Theory and Practice of Self-Conscious Fiction (London: Routledge. the Myth to Modernism. 1988) [ISBN 0-415-00765-8]. Randall Modernist Fiction: An Introduction. Studies in Defoe. 1988) [ISBN 0415008697 (pbk)]. (Oxford: Blackwell. (Baltimore. books like Mikhail Bakhtin’s The Dialogic Imagination and Ian Watt’s The Rise of the Novel). Translated by Hannah and Stanley Mitchell. 6 . London: Johns Hopkins University Press. 1989) [ISBN 0-415-04513-4]. Translated by Anna Bostock. Lukács. 1997) revised edition [ISBN 013837659X (pbk)]. Robert and Robert Kellogg The Nature of Narrative. Stevenson. 1984) [ISBN 0-86068-285-4 (pbk)]. Showalter. 1973) [ISBN 0-7100-7379]. Georg (1920) The Theory of the Novel. A highly influential study of the generic and sociological influences which gave rise to the novel. *Watt. (London: Merlin. Topic study: narrative voice and perspective (suggested text James’ The Spoils of Poynton and some secondary material). (London: Pimlico. Spencer. Jane The Rise of the Woman Novelist: From Aphra Behn to Jane Austen. Joseph Peter On Realism. Gilbert A Short Guide to the World Novel.e. Topic study: the epistolary novel (suggested text: Laclos’ Les Liaisons Dangereuses or Burney’s Evelina). Ian (1957) The Rise of The Novel. 1984) [ISBN 0415030064 (pbk)]. (London: Routledge.

One way of doing this is to choose a brief statement of a particular commentator’s thesis and use this as a means of structuring your response. but they will help you to gain a fuller sense of the concerns of this subject. so you may need more than one week just to read them. (BAKHTIN) In the light of this quotation. Remember that a bold or contentious claim is more likely to provoke you into thought and a productive counter argument than a bland one. You will notice that some of the novels in this subject are very long. but you are free to ignore this advice and adapt questions to suit the novelists and novels you have chosen to work on. compare the presuppositions of epic with those of the early novel. Unless given below. knowledge and practice (the future)’.] The novel. If you are working on a topic not covered in this subject guide. 1 The Iliad or The Odyssey are probably the most easily accessible examples of epic narrative. it is impossible to change it: the tradition of the past is sacred. you may want to devise your own questions in order to give focus to your studies. Week 18: Topic study: magic realism (suggested text – Màrquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude). Weeks 16–17: Topic study: modern Gothic (suggested texts – Fowles’ The Collector and Murdoch’s The Unicorn). that broad questions about the genre are often most successfully addressed with reference to two or three novels by different writers.1 7 . however. Adjust your schedule accordingly.. by contrast. As a guide. [. Bear in mind. is determined by experience. Week 15: Author study: Achebe’s Things Fall Apart and some secondary material.Introduction Weeks 13–14: Topic study: modernism and the novel (suggested text — Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway). that serves as the source and power for the creative impulse. we have generally specified whether your responses should cover one or more writers. you can use them as a focus for your studies on a given topic even if you are not intending to write on it.. Weeks 19–20: Topic study: Post-modernism and the novel (suggested text – Delillo’s White Noise). Although the questions below are framed as essay questions of the kind you are likely to encounter in the examination for this subject. the full bibliographical details for books can be found in the recommended secondary reading in the Introduction to this study guide. That is how it was. ‘[In epic] it is memory. These topics are not the only ones that you might wish to investigate further. the essay/study questions and recommended reading below relate to topics rather than individual texts. Study questions and recommended secondary reading for suggested study topics Because the focus of this subject is on broad questions about the novel as a genre and in order to allow you the freedom to select which novels to study. The origins and rise of the novel (weeks 1–2) Questions 1. and not knowledge.

miraculous Contingencies and impossible performances. ‘From the novel’s beginnings. ‘The history of the novel is a history of anti-novels. but not such as are wholly unusual or unpresidented’. Come near us [.The Novel 2 This question would offer a productive way into a discussion of Don Quixote and/or a comparison between a ‘romance’ like Sidney’s Arcadia and an early ‘novel’ such as Defoe’s Moll Flanders or Haywood’s Love in Excess. Watt. Write a critical account of Ian Watt’s thesis about the rise of the novel. and the unexplainable. 2.. which excels in presenting complexity. the uncertain.’ Discuss with reference to at least two novelists.’ (HUNTER) Discuss with reference to at least two novelists. 6.. how fully it engages the unusual. and to settle for “realism” or “individualism” or “character” as the defining characteristic diminishes the very idea of the novel and trivializes the conception of a literary species. McKeon. Ian The Rise of the Novel. Suggested reading (See the main booklist at the head of this introduction for publication details. Preface to Incognita. 4. 4. Robert and Robert Kellogg The Nature of Narrative. and the assumption that ‘formal realism’ is the defining feature of the new genre..] Novels are of a more familiar nature. Heroins. 2. Richardson and Fielding. ‘“Realism” is only one element in the novel’s history. (CONGREVE.] where lofty Language. Chapters 1–3. Studies in Defoe. Michael The Origins of the English Novel 1660-1740.) Bakhtin. ‘We do the novel [. gothic. Mikhail M. and] delight us with Accidents and odd Events.] a disservice if we fail to notice. fantasy and science fiction are equally important. other traditions such as romance. ‘One question the novel repeatedly asks is: How do you know?—answering basic and simple human needs to know about the world. ‘Epic and Novel’ in Hoffman and Murphy (eds) Essentials of the Theory of Fiction. ‘Romances are generally composed of the constant Loves and invincible Courages of Hero’s. elevate and surprize the Reader [. 1692) To what extent is Congreve’s distinction between romances and novels persuasive?2 3.. Genre and sub-genre Questions 1. 8 .’ (HUNTER) Discuss with reference to critical debates about the origins of the genre and at least two early novels.. 5. once we have defined the different world from romance that novels represent. King’s and Queens [. It is a genre that is ever questing.’ Discuss with reference to at least two novelists.’ Discuss with reference to at least two novelists.... Chapter 3. ‘[The novel] is plasticity itself. Hunter..’ (FRANK KERMODE) Discuss with reference to one or more novelists. Scholes. intertextuality has been one of the few defining characteristics of the genre. 3. 7.’ (HUNTER) Discuss with reference to at least two novelists. J. You should pay particular attention to Watt’s hypothesis about the relationship between the rise of the middle class and the rise of the novel. ‘Satire depends on simplification and is thus antithetical to the novel.’ (BAKHTIN) Discuss with reference to at least two novelists. Paul Before Novels: The Cultural Contexts of Eighteenth-Century Fiction. ‘[No] single word or phrase distinguishes the novel from romance or anything else. ever examining itself and subjecting its established forms to review.. and to pursue that need in the reading of novels.

’ (M.’ (E. André The Novel: Language and Narrative from Cervantes to Calvino. Narrative voice and perspective Questions 1. Brink. Chapter 5. Shlomith Narrative Fiction: Contemporary Poetics. ‘No lyricism. With reference to at least two novelists you have studied.. ‘The Concept of Character in Fiction’ in Hoffman and Murphy (eds) Essentials of the Theory of Fiction. ‘We may divide characters into flat and round. 2. Woolf. for it fundamentally affects the way readers will respond [. ‘Personality is what living beings have.] deal with character. Bennett and Mrs. Suggested reading Bakhtin. 9 . consider the view that the concept of individualism underpins the novel form. reality itself in the process of its unfolding. FORSTER) Consider the validity of Forster’s distinction with reference to at least two novelists. Virginia ‘Mr.. Chapter 13. 9. more essentially.’ Consider the means by which any one novelist encourages and/or discourages such a view. 3. more sensitively and rapidly.. BAKHTIN) Discuss with reference to at least two novelists. it is meaningless to speak of a coherent “novel tradition”. Suggested reading Forster E..’ Discuss with reference to at least two novelists. How valid is the distinction between novels of character and novels of action? You should refer to at least two novelists. ‘The choice of point(s) of view from which the story is told is arguably the most important single decision that the novelist has to make.. ‘Because the novel is such a flexible genre and because novels are written across periods and cultures. Rimmon-Kenan. The Dialogic Imagination. 10.’ (VIRGINIA WOOLF) Discuss with reference to at least two novelists.] to the fictional characters and their actions. The biggest ideological presupposition that novel readers are encouraged to make is to think that characters in novel have personalities.’ (DAVID LODGE) In the light of this claim. Chapter 3. consider the handling of point of view in the work of one or more novelists. William H. ‘Flat and Round Characters’ in Hoffman and Murphy (eds) Essentials of the Theory of Fiction. no comments.’ (FLAUBERT) With what success does any one novelist achieve Flaubert’s dream of impersonality? 3.M. Four Essays. “Character” on the other hand is what people in novels have.. ‘The novel is the only developing genre and therefore it reflects more deeply. ‘I believe that all novels [.] that the form of the novel [.M.Introduction 8.. Consider the importance of narrators and/or narrative perspective in the work of one or more novelists. Mikhail M. Narrative technique and theory: character Questions 1. 4.. Gass. and that it is to express character—not to preach doctrines [.] has been evolved. 2. the author’s personality absent. Brown’ in Hoffman and Murphy (eds) Essentials of the Theory of Fiction. Chapter 2.

‘The Concept of Point of View’ in Hoffman and Murphy (eds) Essentials of the Theory of Fiction. 2. Lodge. 2. to be so exhibited that it will tell itself. Frank The Sense of an Ending . 10 . The Rhetoric of Fiction.’ (PERCY LUBBOCK) Discuss with reference to the work of one or more novelists.. Suggested reading Booth. 27 and 33.’ (MELVILLE. Gérard ‘Time and Narrative in A la recherche du temps perdue’ in Hoffman and Murphy (eds) Essentials of the Theory of Fiction. Kermode. consider the significance of narrative structure in the work of one or more novelists. 1966) [ISBN 0195007700]. Chapter 12. Genette. 5. Shlomith Narrative Fiction: Contemporary Poetics. Brooks. show how aspects of narrative theory have enhanced your understanding of the genre.’ Discuss with reference to one or more novelists. Why then here does any one step forth?—Because one did survive the wreck. Gérard Narrative Discourse. 3.’ (ROBERT MUSIL) In the light of this quotation. ‘What puts our mind at rest is the simple sequence. David The Art of Fiction. Shlomith Narrative Fiction: Contemporary Poetics. Peter Reading for the Plot: Design and Intention in Narrative.. Chapter 9. Wayne C. ‘The art of fiction does not begin until the novelist thinks of his story as a matter to be shown.The Novel 4. Narrative theory Questions 1. Booth. ‘The drama’s done. Lodge. 26. Suggested reading Brooks. an Essay in Method. Wayne C. With reference to one or more novelists. Consider the novelistic handling of time by at least two novelists. 9. Mitchell A. ‘Narrative theory helps us understand the mechanics of fiction. Narrative structure and chronology Questions 1. consider how adequately the term ‘stream of consciousness’ describes their techniques of representing thought processes. Rimmon-Kenan. but is less helpful when it comes to particular questions of interpretation. Chapters 6. Chapters 6–8. Chapter 23.] a unidimensional order. from the epilogue to Moby-Dick) Consider the significance of beginnings and endings in the work of one novelist you have read.(Oxford: Oxford University Press. Leaska. Rimmon-Kenan. Peter. Chapter 14. David ‘Mimesis and Diegesis in Modern Fiction’ in Hoffman and Murphy (eds) Essentials of the Theory of Fiction. ‘Distance and Point of View: An Essay in Clarification’ in Hoffman and Murphy (eds) Essentials of the Theory of Fiction. Chapter 24. With reference to one or more novelists. Suggested reading Gennette. the overwhelming variegation of life now represented in [. ‘Reading for the Plot’ in Hoffman and Murphy (eds) Essentials of the Theory of Fiction.

Suggested reading Alter. ‘The realism/experimentalism dichotomy is formalist. It construes realism as a set of narrative techniques. assume throughout the world is susceptible to rational enquiry and therefore knowable.’ (LAURENCE STERNE) Consider the significance of self-conscious narration in the work of one or more novelists. David ‘Middlemarch and the idea of the classic realist text’ in After Bakhtin: Essays on Fiction and Criticism. Realism needs to be seen as a heterogeneous phenomenon. ‘The realist novel purports to offer a neutral and transparent representation of the world.Introduction Realism and mimesis Questions 1. Sir. Chapter 3. ‘Recipe for the “realist” novel: invent a plot based on cause-and-effect. ‘Self-conscious fiction explicitly lays bare the conventions of realism. it does not ignore or abandon them. Lodge. This is inadequate. Roland S/Z. in order to represent it. Metonymy. and experimentalism as their subversion. 2. Suggested reading Auerbach. Waugh. Gasiorek. Georg ‘Marxist Aesthetics and Literary Realism’ in Hoffman and Murphy (eds) Essentials of the Theory of Fiction.’ Discuss with reference to one novelist. but is actually informed by particular assumptions about the “real” and mediated by highly conventional rhetorical strategies. ‘Although realist fiction is often condemned for its bad faith and conventionality. 3. George ‘Realism Reconsidered’ in Hoffman and Murphy (eds) Essentials of the Theory of Fiction. (do. Barthes.’ (BERTOLT BRECHT) Discuss with reference to one or more novelists.’ Discuss with reference to one or more novelists. it is better understood as a pragmatic effort to render a complex world humanly comprehensible. 5. Barthes.—only. Robert Partial Magic: The Novel as Self-Conscious Genre. modes of representation must change. 11 . consider the relationship between ‘realism’ and ‘self-consciousness’ in the work of one or more novelists. Lodge. Reality changes. 4.’ In the light of this claim. David The Modes of Modern Writing: Metaphor. ‘We’ll not stop two moments. add welldefined characters. Especially Chapters 1 and 8 Levine. Chapter 10 Self-conscious fiction Questions 1. Lukács. sit down upon a set – they are better than nothing) let us look back upon the country we have pass’d through. 1995) [ISBN 0340572159 (pbk)]. as we have got thro’ these five volumes.’ Discuss with reference to one or more novelists. Chapter 17. ‘New problems appear and demand new methods. Patricia Metafiction: The Theory and Practice of Self-Conscious Fiction. (London and New York: Edward Arnold. Erich Mimesis: the Representation of Reality in Western Literature. 2. my dear Sir. and the Typology of Modern Writing.’ Discuss with reference to one or more novelists. Andrzej Post-War British Fiction: Realism and After. Roland Writing Degree Zero.

] we used to think there was a beginning. John ‘The Literature of Replenishment’ in Hoffman and Murphy (eds) Essentials of the Theory of Fiction. consider at least two women novelists of the eighteenth and/or nineteenth centuries. British Women Novelists from Brontë to Lessing. ‘Modern fiction does not dispense with the idea of coherence. Jane The Rise of the Woman Novelist: From Aphra Behn to Jane Austen. But all the older forms of literature had hardened and set by the time she became a writer. Chapter 5. Gilbert. ‘The tradition of women novelists from the eighteenth century to the present day offers a significant challenge to traditional accounts of the genre’s forms and functions. Suggested reading Barth. God was the omniscient author.’ (RONALD SUKENICK) Discuss with reference to one or more novelists. the Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination. The novel alone was young enough to be soft in her hands. Randall Modernist Fiction: An Introduction. Chapters 27–29. Chapter 20.’ (THOMAS HARDY) In the light of this quotation. Spencer.. but rather looks for new kinds of order. ‘My ideal postmodernist author neither merely repudiates nor merely imitates either his twentieth-century modernist parents or his nineteenth-century premodernist grandparents. ‘Reality doesn’t exist. consider the relationship between innovation and tradition in either the ‘modernist’ or the ‘post-colonial’ or the postmodern novel. and the Typology of Modern Writing. 12 . Metonymy. personality doesn’t exist. With reference to one or more novelist(s). 3. Suggested reading Hoffman and Murphy (eds) Essentials of the Theory of Fiction. David. 2. Joseph ‘Spatial Form in Modern Literature’ in Hoffman and Murphy (eds) Essentials of the Theory of Fiction. ‘There is no reason to think that the form of the epic or of the poetic play suit a woman any more than the sentence suits her. but he died. The Modes of Modern Writing: Metaphor. Elaine A Literature of Their Own.’ Consider the view with reference to at least two novelists. now no one knows the plot. McHale. 2. Stevenson.’ (VIRGINIA WOOLF) In the light of this quotation. Brian Postmodernist Fiction. 4.’ Discuss with reference to one or more novelists.The Novel Modernist and postmodernist fiction Questions 1. Sandra M.’ (JOHN BARTH) To what extent does any one author you have studied fulfill Barth’s ideal? 5. Lodge. ‘They’ve changed everything now [. Frank. and Susan Gubar The Madwoman in the Attic.. Showalter. consider how and to what end one or more novelists resist traditional narrative structure. time doesn’t exist. middle and an end. Gender Questions 1.

Do bear in mind. that this subject guide is unique in two important respects: 13 .] and is your expectation that drives the author toward her. This should be enough to allow you to answer three questions confidently in the examination. you should try to read as many of the novels listed above as possible to give yourself a sense of the progression and scope of the novel as an evolving form.’ (ITALO CALVINO) In the light of this quotation. the novel. Iser. but is an example of how you could construct an appropriate course of study and devise appropriate ways of studying the material you choose. This subject guide. You must adapt such material in ways appropriate to your own chosen syllabus of study. you have to adapt this model to your own needs and interests.... we suggest you study at least two authors and at least two topics in detail. Please note that there are other subject guides and introductions that might prove to be of use to you. consider how one or more novelists engage the reader in the process of interpretation..] for several pages you have been expecting this female shadow to take shape [. However. Simple regurgitation in the examination of the illustrative material in this subject guide will be regarded as plagiarism and heavily penalised. as well as yourself. Look through the other subject guides and see if they cover authors or topics that may be of interest to you. questions and critical approaches that could prove useful to you. provides a general model – a guide to helpful critical procedures and relevant material. the Group A Moderns advanced unit subject guide contains a useful introduction to Joyce. Examiners will always look unfavourably at examinations composed of answers which draw solely on the illustrative material provided in this subject guide. though. and leave him something to imagine. Instead it is an elaborate series of signposts which suggests directions. Don’t forget that it is perfectly acceptable to investigate issues which are not mentioned in this subject guide as long as they are of relevance to the objectives described above. Ideally. themes. Suggested reading Eco. in his turn. consider how one or more novelists exploit and/or subvert the reader’s expectations.’ (LAURENCE STERNE) In the light of this quotation. Wolfgang The Implied Reader. Patterns of Communication in Prose Fiction from Bunyan to Beckett. especially those which have sections on fictional prose writings. Using this subject guide This subject guide is not an exhaustive study of. More practically. For example. It also indicates the range of material that is the minimum amount necessary to face the exam with confidence. ‘Your attention. It is up to you to construct a course of study for yourself. topics. This subject guide does not constitute the subject itself.Introduction The role of the reader Questions 1. as reader. 2. is now completely concentrated on the woman [. using these pointers. is to halve matters amicably. Your schedule should include the study of secondary literature – literary criticism and other material you feel could provide a useful background to your study – as well as primary texts. Umberto The Role of the Reader. then. nor a comprehensive guide to. ‘The truest respect which you can pay the reader’s understanding.

An essay is not only an attempt to understand but also to convey understanding. Bear this in mind before waxing lyrical on the language of foreign texts you choose to write on in the examination. whereas other subject guides have invited you to examine a period (e.g. 14 . women’s writing or nineteenth-century American literature). It includes novels in translation from other languages. Unfortunately. 2. Remember. This is rarely because a student fails to grasp the concepts involved. Then you must begin to organise the evidence that these analyses provide. Section B will comprise questions on broader topics and themes and invite discussion with reference to at least two novels by different authors. in the relevant chapters. but will also improve your reading and analytical skills. There are two Section A single author studies and two Section B topic studies as models for you to follow. choosing at least one from each section. Candidates may not discuss the same text more than once. You may be celebrating the translator’s verbal dexterity. It contains examples of the kind of questions you can expect in the examination. Preparing for the examination. modern literary theory). at least one from each section. Romanticism).’ This means that you should not write on the same text in more than one answer – although you may make passing reference to it. and a knowledge of the broader contexts of fiction. make sure you are properly prepared. Section A will comprise questions inviting you to compare and contrast novels by a single author of your own choice. you must devote time to your essay techniques. then. followed by close reading and analysis of texts. Before you launch into the essay. the novel. This subject guide is organised around the structure of the examination paper. Writing sample answers and essays will not only prepare you for specific topics in the examination. They will normally invite discussion with reference to at least two novels. Methods of assessment You will be assessed by one three-hour examination. a single author (e. starts with the study of the topic or topics that interest you. well-supported case for whatever he or she is trying to say. The examination paper will be in two parts and you will be asked to answer three different questions.g. it is better to go for depth rather than breadth in the examination. There is also a sample examination paper attached at the end of this guide.g. You will be expected to demonstrate on this part of the examination some familiarity with theories of narration and the novel. Shakespeare) or a general topic (e. a body of writings in both prose and poetry (e. rather than that of the original author. It focuses exclusively on one literary form. some students’ essays fail to adequately convey understanding. Please note the rubric which states: ‘Answer three questions. Rather it is due to the failure of the essayist to make a complete.g. As you will have to choose from a limited number of essay titles for a subject with very few constraints on what you can study. Preparing for the examination The sample examination paper included at the end of this subject guide gives you a good idea of the range of questions you can expect. It is this specialised skill which the examination by essay seeks to test. in this examination or in any other Advanced level unit examination.The Novel 1.

The answer to a general examination question must be narrowed with ruthless directness. vague or speculative: make your argument clearly and concisely. you should tell the reader how you have interpreted the question and what direction the essay will take. thus maximising your time. The conclusion might also be an appropriate place to mention information which did not directly follow from your main argument but which is related and of interest to the reader. spend some time planning your answers. you should ask yourself which themes/areas. etc. Each paragraph must be directly related to developing what is implicit in the main statement. You should also use the question as a landmark. Some questions will be so broad as to take in. • At the same time. The introduction is essential. so your introduction should contain a clear concise statement of the main argument the essay will present. conceivably. you could appropriately and profitably use to answer these questions. preferably paragraph by paragraph. Even a short passage could be interpreted in more than one way. Quotations should be contextualised (as well as analysed) if you are to maximise their contribution to the essay. organised way. A successful essay must chart a very precise route through such sprawling expanses of territory. with the thesis statement as its centre. Don’t be too abstract. whole areas and eras of literature. Start at the beginning. Just as television news reports start with an announcement of the headlines. even if such works are not generally part of the literary canon. The main body of the essay should then follow on from what you say in your introduction. don’t pad the essay with unnecessary details or quotations. • • • The conclusion should be a concise summary of your main thesis. You should not include plot summary: you must assume that your readers are very familiar with the work or works you are treating. You need to clearly define the terms within which you intend to answer the particular questions you have chosen. Look closely and ask yourself: will this main statement answer the question? The essay. thinking about which questions will enable you to display your knowledge and analytical skills to the best extent. This should assist you in writing efficiently and effectively without too many false starts. Remember • Don’t expect bald statements to stand on their own: support your claims with examples (quotations for instance) or close reference to the text. but it must not be simply repetitive. When you have decided on your essay questions. 15 . If you are using quotations do not expect them to stand on their own. In so doing. The fine line between too much and too little detail can be drawn by considering your audience: this is usually a tutor or examiner who is most interested in your powers of analysis and your ability to express yourself in a clear.Introduction Start by reading through the questions a few times before you begin. referring back to it regularly to make sure you are following the right path and actually answering it. Here. should not simply express your opinion: it should make a considered and well-supported argument.

The Novel Notes 16 .

(New York and London: Norton and Co. Holquist. The Improvement of the Estate: A Study of Jane Austen’s Novels. Hunter. originally published 1983) [ISBN 0485121298 (pbk)]. Marilyn Romantics. (London: The Athlone Press. Frank W. 1979) [ISBN 0-300-022867].Chapter 1: Section A author study: Jane Austen Chapter 1 Section A author study: Jane Austen Essential reading Any complete texts of Mansfield Park and Persuasion will suffice. 1988) [ISBN 0-226-40139-1 (pbk)]. originally published 1971) [ISBN 0-8018-4972-1]. Bradbrook. Jane Austen and her Predecessors. 1997. 1981) [ISBN 0198129688 (pbk)]. (Oxford: Oxford University Press. (London: Weidenfield and Nicolson. Mikhail M. These divisions can be especially helpful in considering questions of narrative structure. (London: Athlone Press. Park Jane Austen: Her Life. Paul Before Novels: The Cultural Contexts of Eighteenth-Century Fiction. 1994. Politics and the Novel. Md. and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press. 17 . Davis. (Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Press. Bakhtin. *Duckworth. Alistair M. Jane Austen Mansfield Park. Factual Fictions: The Origins of the English Novel. (New Haven and London: Yale University Press. Hardy. Jane Austen Persuasion. Claudia L. 1967) [ISBN 66-10245]. Butler. and Susan Gubar The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination. Rebels and Reactionaries: English Literature and its Background 1760–1830. Lennard J. 1987) [ISBN 0-297-79717-2]. Marilyn (1975) Jane Austen and the War of Ideas. Kirkham. Edited by M. J. Sandra M. Recommended secondary reading on Austen Bakhtin. (Oxford: World’s Classics. Edited by John Davie with an introduction by Claude Rawson. (Baltimore.. Jane Austen: Women. Gilbert. Honan. 1990) [ISBN 0-19-282757-X]. *Butler. 1975) [ISBN 0-485-12032-1]. Johnson. The Dialogic Imagination. 1990) [ISBN 0-19-282759-6]. (Chicago and London: Chicago University Press. originally published 1983) [ISBN 0812216105 (pbk)]. (Austin: University of Texas Press. but the following editions contain useful editorial material and retain Austen’s original volume and chapter divisions. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1987) [ISBN 0-19-812968-8]. 1996. Barbara A Reading of Jane Austen. Edited by James Kinsley with an introduction by Marilyn Butler and notes by John Lucas. Margaret Jane Austen: Feminism and Fiction.M. (Oxford: Oxford World’s Classics. (Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1982) [ISBN 0-292-71534-X]. 1990) [ISBN 0-393-30861-8].. Four Essays by M.

1984) [ISBN LC83-003664]. 1986) [ISBN 0-631-13915-X]. with the larger urban world represented minimally by the odd ‘excursion’ to. Mass. *Tanner. much of the discussion here might be applied. Arrangement. Jane The Rise of the Woman Novelist: From Aphra Behn to Jane Austen. say. Ian (1957) The Rise of The Novel. 1990) [ISBN 0-415-05037-5]. Form and Structure in Jane Austen’s Novels’ in Lodge. considerable debate among readers as to the value and significance of her writing. Watt. The debate on Austen While Austen’s reputation as an ‘important’ novelist has to some extent remained stable from her own time to the present day. there has been. Austen expressed her satisfaction that Anna was organising her characters and: …getting them exactly into such a spot as is the delight of my life. David The Art of Fiction: Illustrated from Classic and Modern Texts. Two years later. but also a sense of a radically circumscribed vision too. nevertheless. and Jane Austen. of course. be interpreted in a number of ways. it would be equally possible to answer a question from Section A of the examination paper by referring to two of Austen’s other three novels. (London: Secker and Warburg. then a host of readers – including an influential theorist and practitioner of the novel form like Henry James – has equally complained of what are perceived to be Austen’s profound thematic limitations and the ‘smallness’ of her imagined worlds. in 1816. More disturbing still for many readers is the apparent absence of any explicit or palpable response to the massive social. (Oxford: Basil Blackwell. 1986) [ISBN 0-333-32318-1 (pbk)]. David After Bakhtin: Essays on Fiction and Criticism. Writing to a niece who was herself dabbling with fiction. 2000) second edition [ISBN 07012664270 (pbk)]. (Chicago and London: Chicago University Press. as produces little effect after much labour. Tony Jane Austen. Two of Austen’s best-known comments on fiction might be seen to endorse not only this pejorative view of her range. Richardson and Fielding. 1992) [ISBN 0-436-2567-1]. Bath. to Austen’s entire canon. Studies in Defoe. If Lord David Cecil could claim in 1935 that Austen’s ‘graceful unpretentious philosophy…is as impressive as those of the most majestic novelists’. Austen described her own work in somewhat selfdeprecating terms as: …the little bit (two Inches wide) of Ivory on which I work with so fine a Brush. it is true that the novels focus almost exclusively on small communities of gentry in the home counties. Mansfield Park (1814) and Persuasion (1817).: Macmillan. *Poovey. Portsmouth or a roughly-sketched London. Indeed. with some necessary modifications. (London and New York: Routledge. Mary Shelley. In terms of location. David ‘Composition. Such comments can.The Novel Lodge. Distribution. 18 . political and cultural changes wrought by the Industrial Revolution at home and the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars across the Channel. 3 or 4 Families in a Country Village is the very thing to work on. Lodge. Spencer. but it is worth considering the negative assessment of Austen a little further. Mary The Proper Lady and the Woman Writer: Ideology as Style in the Works of Mary Wollstonecraft. (London: Pimlico. * Highly recommended Introduction Although we will be looking principally at two novels. (London and Cambridge.

the generic boundaries between various kinds of prose fiction and other sorts of writing were by no means concrete or widely agreed. Nevertheless. Austen writes about the passionless love affairs of the gentry. During the early decades of the eighteenth century. a new Austen has emerged as critics have sought to recover the historical specificity of the novels’ concerns.Chapter 1: Section A author study: Jane Austen If we follow the logic of this approach. there are some dangers in simply ‘placing’ Austen’s novels in relation to. it is noteworthy that a shift in the orientation of critical approaches to Austen. its title page carried the subtitle ‘A Novel’. the very stuff of literary history. Before we move on to more particular questions of form. To what extent is ‘narrowness’ a relative rather than an absolute term. you might think about ways in which Mansfield Park and Persuasion might be described as ‘political’. the charges are potentially seriously damaging: living in one of the most turbulent periods in British and European history. and how might a similar charge be levelled at any number of novelists? What might be the value and the significance of Austen’s focus on such small and relatively homogeneous communities? Because Austen consistently deploys romance motifs. Add to this the criticisms that the novels endorse a class-obsessed snobbery. the French Revolution (1789). Sense and Sensibility. it is important to stress that Austen’s formal and thematic concerns are intimately related to the ideological struggles and debates that informed her times. If this seems self-evident and redundant to modern readers. That Austen was able to categorise her novel with such confidence is an indication that. tacit agreements had been reached enabling both readers and writers to understand something reasonably specific by the term ‘novel’. unsurprisingly. Thus. say. but it is important to consider the specifics of the controversy over Austen. was printed in 1811. Because we are primarily concerned with Austen the novelist. However. and we have yet more reasons to question Austen’s reputation. has changed both the nature of the questions asked of the novels and. by the beginning of the nineteenth century. Because the relationship between ‘history’ and novels is always a complex one. which occurred in the 1970s. of course. the kinds of answers given in return. then it is worth remembering that Austen was writing after a period of at least a hundred years of experiment in prose fiction. That ‘love interest’ informs Austen’s novels to the extent that all six of her complete novels replay the basic narrative structure of romance – whereby the heroine wins and marries her man after a series of complications – might indeed add fuel to the view that her concerns are not only trivial but also escapist. that they are politically reactionary and that Austen is an apologist for the male ideology of female subordination. the fuller details of the complex relationships between the novels and the wars and revolutions of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries are outside the scope of this chapter. Debates about literary reputations are. and the ‘war of ideas’ in which her novels engage. 19 . does it necessarily follow that she eschews meaningful engagement with the urgent issues of her day? To what extent are readers applying anachronistic judgements when they condemn Austen’s broadly political conservatism? Although it might be argued that some elements of the debate outlined above amount finally to matters of taste. In what ways does the larger world of ‘history’ make itself felt in the novels? How fruitful is the suggestion that both novels are primarily concerned with the state of a nation felt to be in transition if not crisis? Austen and the novel When Austen’s first-published novel. or the battles of Trafalgar (1805) and Waterloo (1815). and because her central concern is the marriage of her heroines. you should try to familiarise yourself with some details of the historical contexts that take place ‘around’ Austen’s writing.

the liveliest effusions of wit and humour are conveyed to the world in the best chosen language. Interestingly. that we never miss the excitation which depends upon a narrative of uncommon events. presentation of events in which the characters speak and act without noticeable or intrusive authorial intervention) with great subtlety. then the ensuing list of features of the periodical essay. and topics of conversation. Austen’s narrator defines these novels as: …works in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed. his sense that Austen’s realism is a key characteristic of her fiction is one that has been shared by many recent commentators. Although Austen’s own novels are no less didactic or conventional than those of her eighteenth-century predecessors. If this is a little vague. more telling. arising from the consideration of minds. Don Quixote and ending with late twentieth-century fiction. the ‘realism’ that Scott finds in Austen is not a naïve and slavish mimeticism (i. Austen blends what has come to be called ‘telling’ (direct commentary and judgement from the narrative ‘voice’) and ‘showing’ (the scenic. While Scott’s critical tenets differ markedly from those of modern critics and readers. is that novelistic realism rarely. how useful and comprehensive is Austen’s definition? Austen’s ‘realism’ In his review of Emma in 1815. Scott’s understanding of Austen’s realism is noteworthy in its suggestion of an expectation of a general level of plausibility combined with an exemplary rather than naturalistic approach to character. aspires to offer ‘reality’ in unmediated form. manners and sentiments greatly above our own’. Such essays are condemned for offering ‘improbable circumstances. but rather a skilful presentation of characters from ‘ordinary walks of life’ presented ‘with such spirit and originality. Referring approvingly to particular novels by Fanny Burney and Maria Edgeworth. is. Walter Scott described Austen as an exemplary practitioner of a new realism in prose fiction. perhaps. What kind of novel is Austen defining here? What do you think she means by the ‘improbable’ and ‘unnatural’ and to what extent is it possible to reconcile such exclusions with Austen’s own approach to plot and character? What role do romance and fairy-tale motifs play in Austen’s fiction? If we take a longer view of the novel. unnatural characters. since the reader generally chooses whether or not to suspend his or her disbelief. Retrospectively. Familiar equally with Richardson’s refinements of the epistolary form and Fielding’s use of the intrusive third-person narrative voice. beginning with. imitation). the happiest delineation of its varieties. It might be argued that this is largely a matter of reader response. What Scott recognises here. or dramatic. a realism which he saw as peculiar to the novel as it was developing in the early nineteenth century. say. if ever. and what some modern critics have ignored in various condemnations of ‘realism’. part of Austen’s impressive technical achievement was to create a sense of ‘reality’ by 20 . Austen can be seen to have drawn together some of the disparate realist strategies of eighteenth-century fiction and to have developed them in hitherto unprecedented ways. they can often give the impression that they are ‘slices of life’ rather than carefully contrived fictions. Even so.e. in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature. which no longer concern any one living’.The Novel Just when such agreements became general has been much debated. against which Austen seeks to define the ‘novel’. but we can get a sense of their nature from the comments of Austen’s narrator in Northanger Abbey (a novel published posthumously but first drafted around 1797/98).

21 . How central and how intrusive are such oppositions in the novel? Now reread Chapter VI of the first volume. Austen. Mansfield Park: the rhetoric of realism Mansfield Park is the first of what for many readers are Austen’s three most successful and ‘mature’ novels (to be followed by Emma and Persuasion). In order to gain a sense of Austen’s relation to eighteenth-century novel traditions. typically. you may find it useful to consult Bradbrook (1967) and Spencer (1986). To confirm the point. that the novel’s greater success is partly a result of its ability to present abstractions in concrete form. Austen is clearly as much concerned in Mansfield Park with the meaning of certain key words (abstract nouns in particular) as she is in her earlier novels. Chapter VI begins with the narrator setting the scene for a dinner-table discussion at Mansfield Park. Austen has Rushworth repeat his buzzwords in a comically absurd way: It wants improvement. as well as explicit ones like the antithesis between propriety and impropriety. That said. Similarly. Northanger Abbey and Pride and Prejudice). make her as skilled a novelist as any in a century that produced the great ‘classics’ of European realism. Thus the sometimes jarringly obvious antitheses of the kind found in Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice have not altogether disappeared in Mansfield Park but are handled with much greater subtlety.Chapter 1: Section A author study: Jane Austen deploying familiar narrative techniques in new ways. Having prepared the ground with succinct summary. I never saw a place that wanted so much improvement in my life. ma’am. Austen’s handling of a narrative point of view and her ability to make apparently ordinary and mundane events carry the broader burdens of her most serious concerns. Thus we are told that Mr Rushworth has just returned from a friend’s who has ‘had his grounds laid out by an improver’ and that Rushworth is now ‘eager to be improving his own place in the same way’. Make a list of some key words/concepts that you consider important in Mansfield Park. That Rushworth’s attitude towards Sotherton is coloured by a sense of bare statistics rather than any character it might be felt to have is clear throughout the chapter. Notions of maturity and development in treatments of writers’ careers are not always reliable. but Austen seems keen to express much more than Rushworth’s mercenary views here. we are left in little doubt that Rushworth wants to ‘improve’ out of a fidelity to fashion rather than from any more considered impulse. then you might also consult Poovey (1984) and/or Johnson (1988) and Kirkham (1983). since they often presuppose a progression that is by no means a given and impose a false sense of teleology. however. Whether or not we pick up the importance of the reference to Repton (an influential and controversial theorist of landscape gardening in the early nineteenth century) in this chapter. and helps us to understand the particular social pressures that helped to shape the tradition of didactic fiction for women. shows us the fuller significance of these details by having Rushworth himself discuss ‘improvement’ in such a way as simultaneously to further our sense of his rather vacuous mind and to suggest the broader resonance of the topic of estate improvements. it is reasonable to view Mansfield Park as technically more accomplished than the novels first drafted a decade earlier (Sense and Sensibility. If you are interested in debates about Austen’s feminism. The latter is particularly helpful because its demonstrates Austen’s inheritance from women writers like Charlotte Lennox and Fanny Burney. beyond anything. It might be argued. however. You might want to think about implied oppositions like that between innovation and tradition.

the fuller significance of the metonymic relationship between the estates of Sotherton and Mansfield Park and traditional cultural values becomes clear. and acquired progressively. with its clearly symbolic handling of location.The Novel If Rushworth’s name suggests his precipitous and ill-considered judgement of ‘worth’. IX and X. we can discover what are some of the central concerns of the novel. To what extent are Austen’s techniques typical of ‘realist’ novelists? Think about some of the other novels you have read so far on this and other course units. I would rather abide by my own blunders than by his. but also the period often viewed during the eighteenth century as the ‘golden age’ in British history. Think carefully about what Austen is doing in Chapter X. and because such vocabulary served as central metaphors in debates about British constitutional change that followed in the wake of the French Revolution. Once we have understood that Austen’s approach parallels Edmund Burke’s strategy. Is this the way. of course. 22 . or non-literal. but at the same time Austen is asking the reader to consider a complex of secondary. but rather a carefully constructed. the conclusion of Austen’s character Edmund is especially resonant: …had I a place to new fashion. Tellingly. Austen has her characters debate questions of inherited values and how they might be preserved or radically altered. but also her ability to see the real value of things. for example – these are the key questions that inform Mansfield Park. artful representation in which ideology and rhetoric (the novelist seeks to persuade us of the value of particular ‘truths’ or ways of seeing) are to the fore. of embodying traditional cultural values in the actual fabric of estates. is Edmund’s description of Sotherton as a ‘house built in Elizabeth’s time’ that although ‘ill placed’ is nevertheless ‘unfavourable for improvement’. meanings. I should not put myself into the hands of an improver. It is in this sense. the technique itself should remind us of how Austen’s ‘realism’ works. Nevertheless. The details of the imagined world are on one level quite realistic – gardens and gates – and plausible. have another look at Chapters VIII. The reference to ‘Elizabeth’s time’ suggests not only antiquity. however. that Great Expectations or Jane Eyre are organised? How important is the rhetorical figure of metonymy to an understanding of realist fiction? By reading the Sotherton episode carefully. that realism is not mimetic in any simple way. perhaps. is to some extent an extreme example of Austen’s technique in the novel. In the light of continuing debates about whether revolution after the French model or milder kinds of ‘improvement’ were needed in Britain. How critical are Mary Crawford’s remarks on the proximity between the estate and the church at the end of Chapter VIII? Consider how the disuse of the Sotherton chapel and the discussion of Edmund’s desire to become a clergyman relate to the wider concerns of the novel. then Fanny Price’s indicates. not only her own merit. Allowing for the fact that the novel also engages with other fundamental issues – the education and marriage of Fanny Price. Austen’s contemporaries would have been familiar with the language of ‘improvement’ from controversies about radical alterations to estates. To what extent does this chapter prefigure particular relationships that develop later in the novel? Chapter X. for example. Fanny – whose true ‘price’ Edmund and the other Bertrams come to learn in the course of the novel – is appalled by the prospect of the avenue being destroyed at Sotherton. of my own choice. More particularly. in Reflections on the Revolution in France. More important at this stage. I would rather have an inferior degree of beauty. At this relatively early point in the narrative. Bearing in mind that part of Sotherton’s function in the novel is symbolic.

a novel like Mansfield Park seeks to affirm traditional Christian values in a way that bespeaks some confidence. the situation is slightly different in Mansfield Park and Persuasion. the heroines are already exemplary insofar as they think of others ahead of self and tend to judge by external. Fanny’s sense of self-worth is hard won in a milieu that proves sometimes aggressively uncongenial to her values of quietness. objective standards rather than subjectively. then it seems to pervade the autumnal atmosphere of Persuasion. Consider some of the ways in which Persuasion might be seen as a more melancholy and pessimistic novel than Mansfield Park. is that her one chance of happiness – in the form of marriage to Captain Wentworth – seems to be behind her when the novel begins. Interestingly. stillness and selfabnegation. Austen’s novels are consistently preoccupied with the lives of young women whose security and happiness are radically threatened. 23 . Marianne Dashwood. Austen is faced with a number of problems. However. in spite of the generally negative assessments of those around them. Austen confronts the difficulties of convincing readers that her exemplary heroines are in some sense living and breathing rather than ‘flat’ allegorical figures. In both novels. Thus. Partly because it is her last completed novel. What makes Anne’s situation particularly painful. Emma Woodhouse and even Elizabeth Bennet learn the dangers of subjectivism in the course of the narratives in which they are central. Anne too is ignored and undervalued by those around her for most of the narrative. and partly because it does signal some formal and thematic departures from Austen’s previous novels. For all that they finally adhere to the conventions of comedy. by choosing to present such exemplary and near ideal heroines. like Fanny.Chapter 1: Section A author study: Jane Austen Bearing in mind that the physical structure of Mansfield Park stands as a metonym for a traditional English culture.rather than eighteenth-century end of the spectrum touched upon above. Persuasion has often been placed at the nineteenth. Austen’s novels generally prefer objective ‘facts’ to subjective judgements. Firstly. Austen imbues Anne. how would you set about interpreting the rest of the novel? Look carefully at the preparation for the performance of Lovers’ Vows (the debate begins seriously in Chapter XIII and the remainder of the first volume is largely taken up with the theatricals) and the ramifications that follow the return of Sir Thomas Bertram. Fanny and Anne really are worthy. many of them ideological. however. like Fanny. How would you explain what might appear to be an excessive reaction to a minor disruption? What is the significance of the fact that it is Fanny (the poor cousin and ‘outsider’) who defends and in some sense ‘saves’ Mansfield Park? How and with what degree of success does the marriage between Edmund and Fanny resolve the novel’s most urgent concerns? Persuasion: subjectivity and narrative voice Alistair Duckworth has suggested that Austen’s novels can be fruitfully viewed as texts which look back to eighteenth-century Providential fictions and forward to the fictions of doubt that flourish as the nineteenth century unfolds. Does a sense of flux or stability finally dominate the novel? Why does Austen use several locations rather than a central one in the novel? To what extent does the novel suggest a loss of faith in the privileged value in Mansfield Park? For a number of complex reasons. she needs to show that. and. Catherine Morland. on the one hand. Secondly. while on the other it charts the painful isolation of Fanny Price. Thus. If the threat of personal and cultural atrophy is raised only to be expunged in Mansfield Park. Anne Elliot is that much more isolated than even Fanny Price. with a moral integrity that is lacking in other characters.

Austen is able to move freely between interior and exterior views. for example. she heard his voice – he talked to Mary. By presenting the majority of events from her heroine’s perspectives. For many readers. Think again about how Austen handles point of view in both novels. of which this was the most consoling. enough to mark an easy footing: the room seemed full – full of persons and voices – but a few minutes ended it […] the room was cleared. Austen succeeds brilliantly here in giving a sense of the rush of emotions and impressions that assail Anne. More particularly. a curtsey passed. Furthermore. the others appeared. Indeed. of course. to resolve and close all the questions that a given novel poses. very much gratified by this attention…’ typifies a peculiarly ‘modern’ subjectivism that pervades the novel. Austen opens up the active and intelligent minds of Fanny and Anne to the gaze of her readers. they were in the drawing room. Austen affords us privileged insights unavailable to the other characters who inhabit the imagined worlds of the novels. Her eye half met Captain Wentworth’s. By employing a third-person narrative voice in tandem with a flexible use of focalisation (the important distinction here is between who ‘speaks’ and who ‘sees’ a particular narrative event). This paragraph. the paragraph beginning ‘Mary. And it was soon over. such closure may do some violence to what some theorists of the novel see as the inherently ‘dialogic’ nature of the novel form. paying particular attention to the way in which Anne responds to her meeting with Captain Wentworth. How does she prevent the subjective views of Fanny and Anne from overwhelming the objective concerns of both novels? Now reread Chapter VII of Volume I of Persuasion. that there is considerable debate among readers as to whether Anne learns to value impulse ahead of reason or vice versa is partly a result of an inherent ambiguity and. a bow. How. but in simple terms it is a skilful and flexible handling of point of view that enables her to succeed in presenting us with heroines who might otherwise prove totally unsympathetic. but how far can we go with the notion that here and elsewhere in the novel Austen endorses a subjectivism that verges on solipsism? Look again at the paragraphs that follow the one quoted above. perhaps. If Fanny Price and possibly Anne Elliot remain less than fully endearing to modern readers. Austen’s use of narrative voice in the novel is intimately bound up with her broader concerns.The Novel To what extent do you feel Austen is able to overcome these potential difficulties? What are the primary technical means by which she attempts to transcend these possible limitations? Austen’s techniques are complex enough to require careful scrutiny. said all that was right. In minutes after Charles’s preparation. ambivalence that stems from Austen’s chosen techniques. and to what effect. it is in spite of Austen’s best efforts. begins and ends with apparently exterior views. does Austen employ free indirect speech here? To what extent is a sense of external and objective values retained in spite of what is clearly sympathy for private emotional experience? Clearly. We are in no way obliged. but in between moves so close to Anne’s perspective that it might be read as a kind of ‘stream of consciousness’: …a thousand feelings rushed upon Anne. that it would soon be over. and Anne might finish her breakfast as she could. said something to the Miss Musgroves. so that once again the narrative is subtly working to win us over to the approved values of the heroine. 24 .

does Austen share with other novelists since Cervantes an almost obsessive concern with epistemological questions? What kinds of family resemblances are there between Austen’s heroines and the protagonists of other nineteenth.and twentieth-century novels? In these and other ways your study of Austen might easily broaden out into a consideration of a topic study that would enable you to answer a question in Section B of the examination paper. Is ‘persuasion’ finally seen to be a good or a bad thing in the novel? You might find it useful to pay especial attention to Wentworth’s use of the metaphor of the nut in Chapter X. 25 . irony. Learning outcomes By the end of this chapter. having studied the essential reading and some of the recommended critical texts. 2. How useful is the term ‘realism’ in relation to Austen’s fiction? 3. you might pursue your reading of Persuasion further so as to clarify a broader understanding of the novel.or nineteenth-century fiction. Sample essay questions 1. and the events around Louisa’s fall in Chapter XII. To what extent. you might consider how Austen’s fiction relates to novels that appear otherwise quite different. What values does Austen embody in the Navy and what are the wider social implications of Anne’s marriage to Captain Wentworth? Suggestions for further study As you gain a greater sense of some of the preoccupations of the novel as it developed in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. you should be able to: • • • • summarise the debates about Austen’s fiction discuss the degree to which her novels are informed by particular historical concerns describe and give examples of some of the techniques Austen employs as part of the rhetoric of her fiction explain what it means to call Austen a ‘realist’. 4. Consider the significance of one of the following in Austen’s fiction: place. Consider the relationship between any two of Austen’s novels and aspects of either eighteenth. and how such ‘realism’ relates to other novels and novelistic traditions. for example. Consider Austen’s handling of the relationship between the individual and society. point of view. dialogue.Chapter 1: Section A author study: Jane Austen Nevertheless.

The Novel Notes 26 .

(New York: Random House. 1987) [ISBN 0-140-77137-9]. 1992) [ISBN 0701209879]. 1967) [No ISBN]. 1967) [No ISBN]. 1990) [ISBN 0-19-282605-0].H. Old Goriot is. Oliver. *Lukács. *Festa-McCormick.S. (London: Chatto and Windus. (London: Croom Helm. Allen. (Boston: Twayne’s World Authors Series. Ronnie Balzac and the French Revolution. Balzac and The Human Comedy. (London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson.J. introduced by Christopher Prendergast. Translated and edited by A. Hemmings. Balzac: an interpretation of la Comédie humaine. (Harmondsworth: Penguin. the serial reappearance of the same character in different novels. (London: Athlone Press. London: Hogarth. V. Honoré de Balzac. Criticism Bertault. (Oxford: World’s Classics. both as parts of The Human Comedy cycle and as works in their own right.W. Eugénie Grandet was admitted as a text on the French university syllabus in 1889 and thereby achieved ‘classic’ status. Arnold Honoré de Balzac: Eugénie Grandet. 1973. 1990) [ISBN 0-19-282858-4]. Honoré de Balzac. (London: W. Balzac. Marceau. E. F. Hunt. Krailsheimer. D. 1983) [ISBN 0-709-93208-1]. György The Historical Novel.J. Translated by Sylvia Raphael. (Harmondsworth: Penguin Masterstudies. The following is not a complete list but is intended to guide you to some of the more significant studies. (Oxford: World’s Classics. (New York: New York University Press. Pritchett. J. 27 . F. Eugénie Grandet (first published in 1833–4) and Old Goriot (first published 1834) are regarded as key works in the Balzac canon.J. Recommended secondary reading We recommend that you acquaint yourself with at least two critical commentaries on The Human Comedy and a biography. On Eugénie Grandet *Saxton. 1964) [No ISBN].J.Chapter 2: Section A author study: Honoré de Balzac (Eugénie Grandet and Old Goriot) Chapter 2 Section A author study: Honoré de Balzac (Eugénie Grandet and Old Goriot) Essential reading Honoré de Balzac Eugénie Grandet. 1979) [ISBN 0-805-76383-X]. Balzac’s ‘Comédie humaine’. perhaps. 1963) [No ISBN]. 1976) [ISBN 0-140-55081-X (pbk)]. Balzac and his World. 1965) [No ISBN]. more representative of Balzac’s grand project and was the first of his novels to use the technique of recurrent characterisation: that is. Honoré de Balzac Old Goriot. H. Butler.

Lawrence R. (Stanford. *Levin. Trask. New York: Holmes and Meier. 1978) [ISBN 0-713-15969-3]. ‘In the Hotel de la Môle’. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press. New York: Greenwood Press. Further reading Bellos. Eric Mimesis. (New York: Twayne. Rendering French Realism. New York: Maxwell Macmillan International. 1993) [ISBN 0-521-42092-X]. 1988) [ISBN 0-521-36977-0]. See Chapters I. György Studies in European Realism. New York: Columbia University Press. Brooks. Harry The Gates of Horn: a Study of Five French Realists. Translated by E. Translated by W. Calif. Narration and Description in the French Realist Novel: the Temporality of Lying and Forgetting. (Cambridge Studies in French. 1997) [ISBN 0804727872]. McLaughlin. Graham Balzac: a Biography. Peter The Melodramatic Imagination. 0231060076]. 1990) [ISBN 0-140-13222-8]. Bellos. 28 . Biography Hunt. 1987) [ISBN 0-521-31634-0 (pbk).: Hall. 1978. Robb.: Stanford University Press. 1850–1900. Schehr. Kanes. Sandy Realism and Revolution: Balzac. (Cornell University Press. Christopher Balzac. *Petrey. 0805783636 (hbk)]. 1995) [ISBN 0804724113]. 1957. Henry The Question of Speech. (London. See Chapter IV on Balzac. Stendhal. New York: Grosset and Dunlap. Flaubert. (New Haven: Yale University Press. 1950. H. Stendhal. Nochlin. Kazin) [No ISBN]. (London and Oxford: Oxford University Press. Martin Critical Essays on Honoré de Balzac. Kanes. Zola and the Performance of History. Prendergast. II and II. reprinted and updated. 1969) [No ISBN]. Prendergast. (Princeton : Princeton University Press. Henry Notes on Novelists. 1914) [No ISBN]. 1965) [No ISBN].: Stanford University Press. (London: Dent. *Lukács. Pugh. Calif.The Novel On Old Goriot *Auerbach. Kevin Writing in Parts: Imitation and Exchange in Nineteenth-Century literature. (Harmondsworth: Penguin. (London: Picador. Mass. Honoré de Balzac: a Biography. (Cambridge: Houghton. 1984) [ISBN 0231060068. Anthony Balzac’s Recurring Characters. with some other notes. Martin Père Goriot: anatomy of a Troubled World. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Fiction and Melodrama. 1990) [ISBN 0816188459]. Bone with a foreword by Roy Pascal. Nerval. the Lesson of Balzac: Two Lectures. 1993) [ISBN 0805785825 (pbk). 0-521-32799-7 (hbk)]. 1964 – introduction by A. James. 1976. (Stanford. Cambridge University Press. Toronto: Maxwell Macmillan Canada. (London: The Bodley Head. Linda Realism. 1963) [ISBN 0195007271]. 1974) [ISBN 0802052754]. Christopher The Order of Mimesis: Balzac. André Prometheus: the Life of Balzac. James H. (Landmarks of World Literature. The Making of a Reputation. *Reid. (Oxford: Clarendon Press. See part of Chapter 18. David Balzac Criticism in France. 1905) [No ISBN]. James. Mifflin. 1994) [ISBN 0-330-33237-6]. 1953) [ISBN 0691012695 (pbk)]. Maurois. 1976) [ISBN 0-19-815530-1]. 1989) [ISBN 0801422167].J. David Honoré de Balzac. (London: Hillway. (Boston. ‘Old Goriot’. (London: Edward Arnold.

They describe the rationale behind the large project of The Human Comedy and Balzac’s place within the nineteenth-century tradition of Realist literature. (New York: Haskell House. Nationalisation of church property (2 November 1789). France’s ancient provinces divided into administrative départements (12 November 1789). The sections thereafter deal with the separate issues of: • • • • • characterisation (Balzac’s use of contrast. just after Napoleon’s downfall. The chapter concludes with a list of learning outcomes and sample examination questions. he is writing with the benefit of hindsight. Taine. Hyppolite Balzac. genre. * Highly recommended Introduction The overall aim of this chapter is to inform and focus your reading of two of the early novels from Balzac’s The Human Comedy. describes the social and political changes that took place between the French Revolution in 1789 and the July Revolution of 1830. Guildford: Princeton University Press. (Princeton. N. As you might expect of such a prolific author. whereas Old Goriot is set in 1819–1820. the relationship between parents and children) narrative voice language. Balzac’s aim was that. Civil Constitution of the Clergy (12 July 1790). for instance. mystery and melodrama themes (the opposition between Paris and the provinces. Balzac. in Old Goriot. James and the Realistic Novel. Background Balzac documented the life of his times in his novels. published in 17 volumes between 1842 and 1848. 29 . 1973) [ISBN 0838316700]. William W.J.Chapter 2: Section A author study: Honoré de Balzac (Eugénie Grandet and Old Goriot) Stowe. the motif of money. they should represent a comprehensive picture of the social and moral history of France in the early nineteenth century.. 1983) [ISBN 0691065675]. The first two sections below provide a contextual discussion of Balzac. Declaration of the Rights of Man (27 August 1789). the character of Vautrin) sensation. Familiarise yourself with some of the following key events in the history of France about which Balzac expected his readers to be well informed: • • • • • Fall of the Bastille in Paris (14 July 1789). Translated by Lorenzo O’Rourke. and so you should make sure that you understand some of the important events in late-eighteenth. The bibliographies above represent a selection of some of the more accessible secondary material written in English. taken together. The core texts belong to Honoré de Balzac’s (1799–1850) cycle of novels collectively issued under the generic title of The Human Comedy (La Comédie humaine). In Eugénie Grandet we see Balzac as a commentator on contemporary events. his work has generated an enormous amount of criticism. A Critical Study.and nineteenthcentury French social and political history – an awareness of some of the key historical moments will actually enhance your enjoyment of the novels! Eugénie Grandet.

Prussia. Renewed war between Britain and France (May 1803). Napoleon Bonaparte becomes First Consul (December 1799). Invasion of Algeria (July 1830). Charles X succeeds to the throne (September 1824). 30 . Napoleon annexes much of the north European coast from Holland into the Baltic (1810). French invasion of Russia and retreat from Moscow (1812).) Christianity officially abolished (5 October 1793). Establishment of the (first) Empire (16 May and 2 December 1804). Charles X abdicates following the July (1830) Revolution in Paris. French navy defeated by Lord Nelson at Trafalgar (21 October 1805). Legislative Assembly governs France (October 1791–September 1792). Austria. Peace of Amiens (27 March 1802) between Britain and France.) Coalition against revolutionary France formed by Britain. Peninsular War begins with British intervention in Portugal (1809). Napoleon defeats Russo–Austrian armies at Austerlitz (2 December 1805). Committee of Public Safety established in Paris (6 April 1793. censorship of the press and repression of political radicalism (‘The September Laws’. Rules of the Directory established (3 November 1795). Congress of Vienna opens (1 November 1814). Louis Philippe elected King of the French (7 August 1830). Napoleon returns to France (1 March 1815) and forces the new king to flee. Paris occupied by British and their allies (30 March 1814). Execution of Louis XVI (21 January 1793. The Jacobins oust the Girondins as the most powerful revolutionary party (November 1792). Louis XVIII restored (18 July 1815): ‘The Restoration of the Bourbons’. • • • • • • A useful book that puts Balzac in an historical context is Ronnie Butler’s Balzac and the French Revolution. A ‘continental system’ binds most of Europe to Napoleonic France (1808). there followed ‘The Hundred Days’ terminating in Wellington’s victory at Waterloo (18 June 1815).The Novel • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • France becomes a constitutional monarchy (3 September 1791). Spain and some lesser powers (13 February 1793). French Republic declared (22 September 1792). Louis XVIII enters Paris (3 May 1814). 1835).

Who is going to marry Eugénie Grandet?’ This merging of the real and the fictional is one of the defining features of The Human Comedy project. I would perhaps manage to write the history that so many historians forget to write. In the French editions there is much detailed information in the introductions and notes about which town Balzac is actually referring to. by bringing together the main products of the passions. and as a novelist he was concerned not so much with making stories as with providing an accurate account for his contemporaries of the kind of society in which they were living. In 1842.Chapter 2: Section A author study: Honoré de Balzac (Eugénie Grandet and Old Goriot) The Human Comedy cycle Before we consider in detail the novels Eugénie Grandet and Old Goriot let us look first at the larger framework of The Human Comedy. provincial and rural. at the time when he was writing Eugénie Grandet. and the way the author describes interiors and landscapes. And he claimed that the world he carried round in his head and put down on paper was more real. Both Eugénie Grandet and Old Goriot appeared as part of Scenes of Private Life. but let’s talk about something more important. as indeed some of his characters were based on real people. and the way he juxtaposed life in the capital with life in the provinces was of particular interest to the contemporary reader. The three Scenes were yoked under the general title The Human Comedy in 1841. ambitious project was to echo Dante’s Divine Comedy (begun about 1307). he wrote that if French society was to be the historian then he was to be merely the secretary: …by making an inventory of vices and virtues. Balzac’s aim for this vast. that of manners and customs. yes. In 1833. His descriptions of the provinces in the 1820s were often based on real places. He wanted to depict the different facets of French cultural life as realistically as possible. To what extent does Balzac’s description of things serve as indexes to the inner lives of characters? 31 . How does Balzac set the stage for action in Eugénie Grandet and Old Goriot? Look carefully at the opening paragraphs of the novels. He went on to say that his aim was ‘to create a world with its own parish registers’. in his famous preface to The Human Comedy. and he sought to describe all areas of social life – urban. Scenes of Provincial Life and Scenes of Parisian Life. This was part of Balzac’s original scheme. One of the most famous stories about him concerns Eugénie Grandet – both the novel and the character who gives it its title. more interesting. This Realism has inspired many French critics and scholars to try to map his fictional worlds against actual French locations. His novels were regarded as compellingly written narratives with strong characters and humour and as social documents. In the preface to Eugénie Grandet in 1833. than the world in which he was actually living. by choosing the principal events of society. Balzac described French society in such detail and with such thoroughness that French readers of the time read his novels not just for entertainment but also for information. They were debating the nature of French provincial society. subdivided into three groups: Scenes of Private Life. Eugénie Grandet and Old Goriot were first published as parts of a 12-volume series entitled Studies of Nineteenth-century Manners. In his pursuit of ‘real life’ Balzac researched his novels. by depicting particular types of people. Balzac claimed that in writing this novel he was filling a gap in the literature of his time by dealing with life in the provinces. by composing types by bringing together features from several different individuals. all this is very interesting. Balzac was at a Parisian café with some friends. ‘Comédie’ in French denotes drama or theatre. when he suddenly interrupted the conversation and said ‘Yes.

and The Human Comedy can be read as his attempt to represent contemporary French society in all its manifestations – the worst aspects alongside the best. because art and literature also became democratised. The past was no longer seen as the sole subject for art. In Eugénie Grandet and Old Goriot. where he finds his inspiration and material. Balzac is not interested in revisiting historical moments: his stories reside in the present. Think about the consequences that this might have for the structure of not only the entire Human Comedy but the structure of individual novels within the larger framework. The human world. Realism In the nineteenth century Realism reflected. classificatory) model for structuring his fiction. Contemporaneity was. What stresses does Balzac’s notion of a ‘grand scheme’ have for the writer in general? What narrative strategies might a writer employ to create a sense of unity and coherence? Think about the Aristotelian notions of time and place. Charles Lantier. radical forces. Consider the implications of Balzac’s adoption of a taxonomical (that is. in the most direct way.The Novel In the preface of 1842. we must remember that they fit into a larger project. In Émile Zola’s novel The Masterpiece (1886). (Note that Old Goriot is dedicated to a zoologist called Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire. for example. the new social and political conditions of nineteenth-century man and woman. So Realism gained strength in the nineteenth century and it was associated. Although Realist modes of writing were established before the nineteenth century. she maintains. was also composed of genres and sub-genres. and they were intended to represent variations on the theme of human social life. objective and impartial representation of the real world. the artist-hero. The middle classes (which were rapidly growing in number) and the poor had been previously ignored. He tells the story of his own times and life in post-revolutionary France. but in the nineteenth century they became important subjects for Realist writers and painters. Balzac understood the social and economic shift away from the aristocratic in France to the 32 . The novels of Balzac reflect these social and political changes. He had what Linda Nochlin has described in her book Realism as an enthusiasm for giving a ‘truthful. particularly in France. and could be established by material fact. Karl Marx admired Balzac’s novels because he said that Balzac understood class society. In Volume 3 of Das Kapital (1894). Balzac drew an explicit analogy between his grand literary project and the classificatory disciplines of history and science. The organisation of his fiction under the overarching title The Human Comedy was an attempt to emulate the zoological sciences that grouped animals in terms of species and sub-species. The move towards political and social democracy in France was particularly significant for Realism.) In studying Eugénie Grandet and Old Goriot. comparable to the animal world’s division into ‘species’. because individual perceptions of external reality were bound up still with metaphysical systems of belief and faith. and also the role and function of characters. Nothing was regarded as too ignoble or ugly to be painted. Realism as a conscious mode was not possible. prefers to find inspiration in a pile of cabbages rather than the picturesque medievalism of the Romantics. with the expression of new. The culmination of the Enlightenment in first the American and then the French Revolutions gave Western humanity the material conditions in which self-consciousness about issues like Realism became possible. based on a meticulous observation of contemporary life’. in his view. the most crucial element in Realist writing and painting. It had to be about the here and now – what was tangible and visible. Marx described Balzac as ‘a novelist who is in general distinguished by his profound grasp of real conditions’.

the story revolves around the town of Saumur. Poiret. Madame Vauquer. The Realist novelist is often described metaphorically as a doctor who examines the parts of anatomy to understand the whole. In Old Goriot. but this comment should not be taken at face value. Chapter 1). artists. In Eugénie Grandet. philosophers and scientists right across Europe in the nineteenth century. Nanon and. In the Maison Vauquer. at the centre of which is the Grandet household consisting of Old Grandet himself. How successful do you think this metaphor is for describing the work of Balzac? You might like to consider Chapter 15 of George Eliot’s Middlemarch (1871–2). made reference to the complex notion of Balzac’s Realism in his novel.Chapter 2: Section A author study: Honoré de Balzac (Eugénie Grandet and Old Goriot) mechanical and the bourgeois. Mademoiselle Michonneau. whose sole aim is to lay claim to Grandet’s enormous wealth. fragmentary and incomprehensible – and the so-called ‘realistic’ conversation in the novel – structured and coherent. probably inspired Somerset Maugham’s comment in Ten Novels and Their Authors (1954) that Balzac was a ‘vulgar little man’. and others such as Bianchon. Baroness Delphine de Nucingen. the entire social spectrum. to ‘map’ the characters against the narrative structure – make a list of them. after reading the novels. the Duchess de Langeais and various noblemen. ‘who do not even know the names of those whose chestnuts they pull out of the fire’ (Old Goriot. Around this group are the satellite figures of the townsfolk – among whom the most prominent are the Cruchots and the Grassins. Eugène de Rastignac. for example. Charles. Vautrin. is trying to read a passage in Eugénie Grandet concerning a conversation between Eugénie and her mother. the ‘Parisian catspaws’ as he described them. Mademoiselle Taillefer. He understood the nature of the underclass. You might find it useful. from the highest to the lowest echelons. noting when they appear and how they relate to one another. where the reference to the processes of medical research may be taken as a metaphor for the approach of the Realist writer. The French existentialist writer and critic. where the main character. Balzac described his role as a writer in 1833 as that of a humble copyist. Balzac’s sensitivity to the details of French society. You might like to consider the notion of ‘realistic’ in relation to your own reading of these two novels by Balzac. Madame Grandet. This method of surveying and detailing the entire organism. He is however distracted from his reading by a conversation at a neighbouring table and is struck by the difference between the ‘reallife’ conversation – personal. the medical student. we meet Viscountess de Beauséant. By mapping the characters and their 33 . To what extent does Balzac transcribe in a literal sense his own life and times? How does he ‘shape’ his material into fiction? Is it useful to see his characters as life-like or larger than life? Some critics have described his approach as ‘imperialist’ rather than Realist. What do you think they mean by that? Characterisation Balzac’s novels teem with characters. there is a hierarchy of characters that corresponds to the physical structure of the boarding-house and the amounts paid as rent by the boarders – Old Goriot. Eugénie. Jean-Paul Sartre. there are the microcosms of the Maison Vauquer and the fashionable parts of Paris. temporarily. Countess Anastasie de Restaud. Nausea (1938). seated to dine at a provincial restaurant. In the fashionable areas of Paris. becomes a defining feature of writers.

are given life within the hearts of the characters. a revealing glance. in search of personal fulfilment and professional success? Vautrin Much has been written about the character of Vautrin (based on a real criminal who became the Chief of Police). and he made particular use of character contrast. and he uses Eugène de Rastignac in order to triumph and dominate. How does Balzac relate their social role to their function in the narrative structure? Contrast The texture of Balzac’s writing is frequently created by contrast of one kind or other. The miser Grandet lacks a moral sense and we see this in his behaviour and attitude to his wife. a gesture. all desires. but he also serves as the vehicle for Balzac’s own bitter feelings about French society. but rather than against God. We catch their expressions as we would in real life. We discern the nuances as the student Rastignac himself learns to do. but they are a constituency without power (or money). for example. you will. (p. through actions or words. the callous indifference of the worthless Charles. As well as arranging his characters in ways that invite comparison. Focus on the treatments of the servant figures in the novels – Nanon and Fat Sylvie. licit and illicit. who were already rather sickened by his aristocratic manners’ (Chapter 2). see the complex nature and comprehensive scope of Balzac’s writing.78) What does Eugène de Rastignac learn as he journeys across Paris. As Diana Festa-McCormick claims in her book. hopefully. between the Maison Vauquer and Madame de Bauséant’s palace.The Novel environments in the way described above. his revolt is against Man. corrupt and unjust individuals. Indeed we might even point to a larger contrast between the moral behaviour of men and women in this novel. we are told ‘provided…a strange contrast to the worthy provincials. He functions in a more complex way than other characters in Old Goriot in that he not only reflects the dysfunctional nature of urban life. the tone of a voice. Contrast was one of the main principles around which Balzac constructed his novels. a smile or laughter. Is Balzac presenting us with a modern Garden of Eden scene? Note the ways in which Vautrin criticises society. His nephew Charles also abuses the woman who loves him – he takes Eugénie’s money and departs. In Eugénie Grandet. Look at the long conversation between Rastignac and Vautrin in the garden (Chapter 2). who. Parisian society is shown to be greedy. Honoré de Balzac (1979): Hardly a manifestation of the human condition is left unstirred. In Old Goriot. Vautrin is a figure of temptation and revolt rather like Satan in Milton’s Paradise Lost. Balzac uses character as a lens through which we view the vices and virtues of nineteenth-century French society. is juxtaposed against the devoted and trusting Eugénie. thereby establishing their importance in the novel and their interrelationships. Only the women show a glimmering of human feelings. Do you agree with this view? Compare the presentation of female characters in both novels. and consider in particular his advice to Rastignac about adopting the same unscrupulous means as society in order to win through. corrupt and unjust through the thoughts and actions of greedy. How do you think this relates to Balzac’s own views about the state of Restoration France? 34 . a hidden tear. conscious and unconscious. Look at Section 4 and study the comparison drawn between Grandet’s betrayal of the regional winegrowers and Charles’s betrayal of Eugénie.

The combination of these elements accounted for the contemporary popular appeal of Old Goriot. How does Balzac establish a tension between the different districts of Saint Marceau and Saint Germain in Old Goriot? What kind of appeal would his interest in provincial life have for the contemporary reader? How does Balzac characterise the existence of city dwellers in particular? How do other Realist writers of the period depict modern city life? 35 . In Old Goriot. mystery and melodrama The deathbed scenes in the novels are sites for melodrama. becomes corrupted by Paris. One of the ways in which he attempted to interrelate his novels was by creating characters who would reappear across the whole œuvre. including Lost Illusions (Illusions Perdues) and The Splendours and Miseries of Courtesans (Splendeurs et Misères des Courtisanes). Do you agree with this comment that there is a conflict between these two tendencies. and in Eugénie Grandet. one of his most celebrated characters. He first employed this technique in Old Goriot. and then compare this with the sensational and melodramatic death of Goriot and the arrest of Vautrin later on. Gustave Flaubert and Zola. Vautrin appears in several novels. including Balzac. Charles Grandet arrives at Saumur from the capital and looks down his nose at his provincial relatives. The difference between life in the capital and life in the provinces becomes a common theme in their novels. Consider the aura of mystery that surrounds both these characters at the opening of the story. genre. or does Balzac effect a successful compromise? Look carefully at the portrayal of the characters of Goriot and Vautrin. throughout the novel? Make a list of instances where Vautrin is seen though the eyes of others and where his character makes a more direct appeal to us through his own speech and action. genre. we the readers are able to witness the effects of the environment on the individual. and the role played by Paris as the cultural and economic centre of France.Chapter 2: Section A author study: Honoré de Balzac (Eugénie Grandet and Old Goriot) Sensation. In Old Goriot. Balzac is conducting an experiment through his fiction. and the characters in this novel who resurface across The Human Comedy cycle include Anastasie Restaud. By placing provincial characters in the city and urban types in the provinces. and you should think about the way that Balzac weaves together Realism and sensation. Madame de Bauséant and Rastignac. a young man from the provinces. although one critic observed that Balzac’s ‘passion for truth was often in conflict with his lust for marvels’. for example. Make some notes on the way Paris and the provinces are portrayed in the novels. but it also became a preoccupation of French Realist writers and artists in the nineteenth century. There is one final point about Balzac’s characterisation that must be made before we move on. mystery and melodrama surrounding the lives of these two characters contrast with the realistic portrayal of Rastignac and the Maison Vauquer? How does Balzac gradually build a picture of Vautrin. mystery and melodrama. genre. They were interested in the effects of industrialisation and technology on traditional modes of life. Paris itself is subdivided into rich and poor areas. and that is his innovative use of recurrent characters. In many ways. Rastignac. How does the sensation. for example. Themes Paris and the provinces The opposition between the city and the country goes back at least as far as the Alexandrian poets of the third century BC.

‘Take good care of everything. as were his readers. shares and equity. The opening description of Madame Vauquer’s boarders in Old Goriot. There are many similarities between the story of King Lear and Old Goriot. sorts and grades them in terms of how much they pay or are worth. is the real subject of all Balzac’s novels. and she distributed her attentions and favours among them with an astronomer’s precision according to the sum of money each paid’ (Section 1). the miser Grandet takes on some of the characteristics of the gold he covets. knowing when. Through his purchase of such land Grandet makes his fortune.’ he says to his daughter. The monomania of Grandet is similarly overwhelming. As a social Realist. Even on his deathbed he refuses to renounce his materialism.’ (Chapter 5) By what particular means does Balzac represent parental authority? How does the story of Old Goriot differ from Shakespeare’s King Lear? Are these moral tales? What do we learn through the characters of Eugène de Rastignac and Eugénie? Narrative voice A major feature of Balzac is the extent to which he intervenes as author and narrator in his novels to address the reader. he is incapable of loving his wife and daughter more than his wealth and power. The ravings of the old noodle merchant contain painful truths. Unlike his contemporaries. unlike Goriot.The Novel Money The exuberance of the money-making process. which reveal to Eugène de Rastignac the imperfect but real nature of society. In what ways can we read the financial dealings of Grandet as an illustration of the financial growth and development of France in the nineteenth century? How is the handling of money used to symbolise character? Parents and children Both novels have at their centre monomaniac figures (Goriot and Grandet) whose decline and fall are described as relating to their neglect of family values and their single-minded pursuit of a single desire. but. is spurned by his daughters who unfeelingly squander his gifts in order to achieve a higher social standing. Balzac lays bare in many of his novels the workings of a society increasingly dominated by commercial interests and the lustre of money. Balzac did not cultivate a 36 . and we are given extensive descriptions of financial transactions. like Shakespeare’s King Lear. and the novel describes his obsession with wealth and his efforts to maximise profit at the expense of human life. and this allows him to speculate – he is extremely good at this. He was very interested in money. The theme of money is explored in the greatest detail in Eugénie Grandet and the story of Grandet’s miserliness and its effects on all those around him. ‘You will have to account to me for all of it in the next world. for example. who looked to some of his novels as practical guides to understanding the complex notions of stocks. Look at the final scenes where Goriot is slowly dying. In Eugénie Grandet. Grandet makes a lot of money by understanding the way society works. Both stories end tragically. Goriot. for example. Flaubert and Guy de Maupassant. it can be argued. In Eugène de Rastignac he finds an alternative substitute son. and his manipulation of finance can be read as an example of what happened in France after 1789 when land owned by the Church was nationalised and subsequently bought not by the poor landless peasants who worked on it. The ‘seven boarders were Madame Vauquer’s spoiled children. to sell his gold for paper money. but by the rich in the towns. With the money he has acquired through the buying-up of land Grandet acquires government stock. telling us what to think and how to read.

What are we supposed to make of his intervention? Can you find other instances in the novels where Balzac asserts his views? How may we reconcile Balzac’s forceful intrusions with his assertion that he is a ‘humble copyist’? Language You are obviously reading Balzac’s novels in translation. but it also demonstrates Balzac’s acute sensitivity to the world in which he lived.’ Language is used expertly here to buy time and hence to win a deal: it is. He was extremely attuned to the changing nuances of everyday speech. This latter notion of language as a form of currency is an old one (think about the phrase ‘to coin a phrase’ for example). In Eugénie Grandet language is manipulated by Grandet the miser to achieve a certain result in a financial deal. a literal example of ‘linguistic coinage’. In Chapter 4 he pretends to have speech and hearing defects with the intention of ‘wearing out the patience of his business opponent and of keeping him so busy trying to express Grandet’s thoughts that the opponent lost sight of his own. Instead. who gain a certain coherence as a community through a shared language. in effect.Chapter 2: Section A author study: Honoré de Balzac (Eugénie Grandet and Old Goriot) transparent narrative voice. Balzac’s commentaries on the life of a young girl in Chapter 3 of Eugénie Grandet. the critic Roland Barthes claimed that reading the novels actually made him sick. and it would be difficult to analyse some of the linguistic structures in detail. refers to the recent inventions of the Diorama and Panorama – visual constructions that permit a comprehensive survey of a subject – both of which might be described as the model for Balzac’s own approach in surveying the entire structure of society. Are there other episodes where language is used in a particular way to reveal something about the nature of nineteenth-century French society? 37 . ‘Rama’ is a verbal game that unites the boarders. Consider. but you might consider Balzac’s use of language as either a way of revealing the interrelationships between individuals or as a kind of coinage. In Old Goriot. Find places in Eugénie Grandet and Old Goriot where Balzac makes his presence felt. the conversational nuances of the French working class are played out hilariously by the boarders who. often lapse into ‘talking rama’ (Section 1). for example. Two particular episodes are worth noting in this connection. Unable to stomach Balzac’s self-assured rhetoric. ‘Rama’. he exercises an authority in his novels. as Balzac states. This episode provides comic relief in the story. when together. urging us to see the world as he sees it. as something traded by individuals for certain benefits or material gains.

to show a moral sewer of Paris that gives the effect of a disgusting sore’. especially those relating to moral. In what ways can Balzac’s work be seen as reflecting the nineteenth-century obsession with scientific enquiry? Discuss with reference to at least two novels.The Novel Learning outcomes By the end of this chapter and the relevant reading. you should be able to: • • • • • • • demonstrate familiarity with some of the key events in French cultural history in the nineteenth century and relate them to the historical settings of Balzac’s novels situate Eugénie Grandet and Old Goriot within the larger scheme of The Human Comedy define and apply the term ‘Realism’ to Balzac’s writing identify some of the ways in which structure is provided by characterisation trace the development of certain themes in Balzac’s novels. To what extent can we read Eugénie Grandet and Old Goriot as the stories of rebellion by children against their parents? 38 . social and economic issues describe Balzac’s narrative voice approach the work of other Realist writers using your familiarity with Balzac’s approach to his subject. In 1834. Discuss the notion of social class in Balzac’s novels. ‘It was necessary in order to be complete. 3. Balzac wrote. 2. 4. What contrast does Balzac make between the city and the provinces? Discuss with reference to at least two novels. Sample essay questions 1.

On Murdoch This selection covers texts with useful material on The Unicorn. (London: Vintage. (London. 1988) [ISBN 0838633242]. (London: Batsford. Conradi. Dipple. Gerstenberger. Muriel Spark and John Fowles: Didactic Demons in Modern Fiction. Peter John Fowles. Kane. Please note that new paperback editions of modern novels like these frequently appear. 1992) [ISBN 0-415-07825-3] 181–200. 1988) [ISBN 0333444825 (pbk)]. Donna Iris Murdoch. 1996) [ISBN 0-219-04208-9]. 1975) [ISBN 0-8387-7731-7]. (London: Macmillan. Elizabeth Iris Murdoch: Work for the Spirit. Iris Murdoch (1963) The Unicorn. 1986) [ISBN 0-7134-4664-1] 184–89. (1970) Degrees of Freedom: The Novels of Iris Murdoch. Victor Modern Gothic: A Reader. Two essays are recommended: Moore-Gilbert.S. Recommended secondary reading On modern Gothic Not a great deal has been published on modern Gothic specifically (though there is masses on ‘traditional’ Gothic). Stevenson. Bart and John Seed (eds) Cultural Revolution?: The Challenge of the Arts in the 1960s. (London: Methuen. 1994) [ISBN 0099302241]. (London: Farleigh Dickinson University Press. The only full-length text on the topic is: Sage. Loveday. 1998) [ISBN 009974371X]. Richard Iris Murdoch. (London: Associated Universities Press. Macmillan. (Harmondsworth: Penguin. You may use any edition that you find convenient. 1982) [ISBN 0-416-31290-X]. 1987) [ISBN 014002476X]. 1982) [ISBN 0-333-32846-9].Chapter 3: Section B topic study: modern Gothic Chapter 3 Section B topic study: modern Gothic Essential reading John Fowles (1963) The Collector. 39 . Randall ‘Contemporary Gothic’ in his The British Novel Since the Thirties: An Introduction. Byatt. Bart ‘The Return of the Repressed: Gothic and the 1960s novel’ in Moore-Gilbert. (London: Vintage. A. (Manchester: Manchester University Press. (London: Routledge. On Fowles This selection covers texts with useful material on The Collector. Simon The Romances of John Fowles.

women are also very prominent in the contemporary revival of Gothic. (London: University of Chicago Press. Leavis sustained the attack.The Novel Kane. Charles Maturin and Mary Shelley. dismissed what it described as ‘the trashy fantasies and cheap excitements of the Terror school’ as unworthy of any serious attention. However it certainly fell into critical disfavour. suggests. Revaluation (1956). her husband F. pity. 1967) [ISBN 0-252-00704-2]. Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins. Richard Iris Murdoch. In addition to these early works.R. had a long and controversial history since its emergence in the mid-eighteenth century with texts such as Walpole’s Castle of Otranto and Beckford’s Vathek. especially. Muriel Spark and John Fowles: Didactic Demons in Modern Fiction. Introduction The aim of this chapter is to introduce you to one of the most widely used genres in contemporary Western novel writing and to consider larger questions such as: what is a genre? and how and why do genres change and develop in literary history? The history of Gothic To illustrate one Section B topic study. as is indicated by the work of the Leavises. (London: Associated Universities Press. we shall be offering a genre study of modern Gothic.G. The early phase of Gothic is covered in two other subject guides: it would be a great advantage to you to consult them to get a more detailed historical sense of the genre and its characteristic themes and conventions. You might want to think about why they have been so attracted to the genre throughout its history. shudders and so forth’ and was strongly critical of writers like Charlotte Brontë and Dickens. Gothic continued to provide an inspiration to Victorian fiction. Lewis. for instance.P. The Gothic Flame. After the war. Leavis railed against its ‘clumsy call for tears. Gothic has. wrote sympathetically about it as a genre in which women writers had been prominent and particularly adept. It would be even more advantageous if you could read one or two examples of Gothic from earlier periods. in particular. of course. select short texts (some Romantic Gothic fictions. as some of the work of Evelyn Waugh and Mervyn Peake.D. 1988) [ISBN 1087-04575-4]. Robert Fabulation and Metafiction. Gothic is seen as a purely historical phenomenon.L. whose The Turn of the Screw is widely considered to be a classic of the genre. and Joseph Conrad. In Fiction and the Reading Public (1932). too. 40 . are extremely long). M. It was also exploited by Modernist writers like Henry James. in 1957 his tone was largely elegiac. two of the most important literary critics in the period 1930–1960. where it resurfaces in writers as diverse as Charlotte Brontë. Gothic never entirely died out as a resource for serious writers in the period 1900–1960. If time is pressing. Conrad’s The Secret Sharer and Heart of Darkness both have substantial Gothic elements. Scholes. Towards the end of the nineteenth century it experienced something of a revival in works like R. Q. Virginia Woolf. Varma wrote his study of the genre. Thus when D. Oscar Wilde’s Picture of Dorian Gray and Bram Stoker’s Dracula. moreover. Stevenson’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. It flourished in the Romantic period (approximately 1780–1830) in the hands of writers like Anne Radcliffe. a genre which had nothing to offer the serious contemporary writer. who were most interested in its possibilities. They are the Personal study programme and the Romanticism units.

Gothic once more began to claim the interest of ‘serious’ writers. What effect does this invocation of Dracula have on our perception of Hannah? How does it complicate our perception of Hannah as a victim? What are the implications of Murdoch’s re-gendering of the Dracula figure as female? Fowles is equally fascinated by earlier phases of Gothic. Hogg’s Confessions of a Justified Sinner and James’ The Turn of the Screw and. many other more recent British and American writers have reworked the genre. Since the late 1970s a vast number of books have been published on the genre. another Gothic fiction by Sheridan Le Fanu. cinema. (The title of Murdoch’s essay echoes not just Kant. as is often the case with these forebears. Chris Baldick’s In the Shadow of Frankenstein (1991) and Fred Botting’s Gothic (1996). with a continual proliferation of new plot-lines and unexpected twists. moreover. Rosemary Jackson’s Fantasy: The Literature of Subversion (1983). Fowles’ text has a governess 41 . In her important essay of 1959. Hawthorne. moreover. Its critical rehabilitation has been equally impressive. The Unicorn has something of the apparently rambling or expansive structure of many Romantic Gothic texts. but also Burke. explicitly recalls Harker’s approach to the Count’s castle in Dracula. it is nonetheless significant that the model for Sarah Woodruff’s elusive ‘double’ identity is Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Hannah Crean-Smith. the resources of which she herself was to explore in the next decade. The Hammer House of Horror series began in 1957. like Shelley’s Frankenstein. it was not just Fowles and Murdoch who became aware of the potential of Gothic in this period. both frame and inner narratives are mediated by unreliable narrators. these novels reveal their generic lineage. In the post-war era. whose Inquiry into the Sublime and Beautiful (1756) provided a critical manifesto for eighteenth-century and Romantic Gothic. notable among which are Tzvetan Todorov’s The Fantastic (1978). First of all it is in the form of a tale within a tale. this is clear recognition of the achievement of a by then largely marginalised tradition. Melville and Dostoevsky as writers ‘to whom we would not want to deny a first place’ in the literary hall of fame. At the level of motif. From around 1960.) The ominous opening of Murdoch’s The Unicorn. above all. and a series of scenes link the central figure. which Fowles’ narrator describes as ‘the best guidebook to the age’. Indeed. As the Suggestions for further study in this chapter demonstrate. The Sublime and Beautiful Revisited. but for psychological investigations of considerable subtlety and power. Thus while The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1969) cannot really be considered a Gothic novel.Chapter 3: Section B topic study: modern Gothic Gothic nonetheless continued to flourish in the period 1930–60 in the domain of ‘popular’ culture. The Collector refers explicitly to Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw. David Punter’s The Literature of Terror (1983). By contrast. to Dracula himself. aside from the authors mentioned there. Alfred Hitchcock demonstrated that ‘horror’ retained the potential not just for sensation. to the extent that it has now become one of the dominant genres in contemporary writing. both Fowles and Murdoch affiliate themselves to the Gothic by placing their work in an explicit relationship to earlier examples of the genre. inspired by the success of Hollywood Gothic in the 1930s and endless versions of the Dracula and Frankenstein stories helped Hammer to become one of the most successful British film houses over the next 20 years. With ‘Psycho’ and ‘The Birds’ (both 1963). too. Iris Murdoch praises Emily Brontë. a nineteenthcentury Anglo–Irish writer for whom Murdoch has expressed her admiration. it took forms as diverse as the ‘horror’ fiction of bestsellers like Dennis Wheatley and. Hannah also resembles the protagonist of Carmilla. Gothic elements in Fowles and Murdoch In the first instance. Let’s have a look at The Collector.

including incest (hinted at in Hannah’s marriage to her cousin). Many earlier Gothic texts focus on orphan figures and. including kidnap and imprisonment – mental as well as physical. most modern Gothic – like The Collector – prefers a more ordinary social milieu than the religious orders or aristocracy favoured by Romantic Gothic. is transformed into obsession. voyeurism and sado-masochism recur in the work of Murdoch and Fowles. Earlier Gothic is often preoccupied with extreme states of mind – even ‘madness’ – and clearly there is strong evidence for seeing both Hannah and Clegg as in some sense ‘mad’. It tends to ‘domesticate’ many of the genre’s established conventions. violence of manifold kinds and sexual ‘deviancy’. for instance. or even Pip Lejour and Effingham Cooper. that functions as a kind of dungeon. as in Romantic Gothic. Each behaves ‘monstrously’ without ever threatening to become non-human. are heightened in contemporary equivalents like The Collector and The Unicorn by similar plot conventions. like them it is very old (built in 1625). Although The Unicorn is set among ‘the gentry’. vampires and monsters survive only metaphorically. What factors make Clegg appear so ordinary? Most obviously. note how the architectural conventions of earlier Gothic return. To what extent are Clegg and Hannah ‘mad’ or simply extremely clever or manipulative? In terms of the physical settings of the novels. within a psychologically realistic framework. In contemporary Gothic. domestic violence can 42 . who recalls the protagonist in James’ The Turn of the Screw. Miranda. so that settings which are traditionally distanced in time or space are so now only vestigially or symbolically. ghosts. The ‘domestication’ of modern Gothic relates to one of its most important insights. What uses does Murdoch’s novel make of the architecture of the great house? Suspense and horror. Finally. once a priest’s hole. it is isolated. as in the case of Clegg or Gerald Scottow. of course.The Novel figure. Possession. Marion Taylor in The Unicorn is another governess (or companion) figure who is made to face the limitations of her own knowledge by her ‘charge’. In certain respects Clegg is quite ordinary. What attitudes do Fowles and Murdoch invite us to take towards ‘deviant’ sexuality? To what extent are they challenging the dominant discourses about sexuality current before 1960? Can these novels be considered ‘permissive’ on the issue of sexuality? But there are important differences. too. it is claustrophobic and has a basement room. When and where is Murdoch’s novel set? Is it set in England? What is the significance of these aspects of its setting? The same is true of social settings in modern Gothic. so characteristic of earlier Gothic. that the everyday and the ‘normal’ may be sources of horror and terror quite as potent as anything conceived of by earlier Gothic. Clegg too is an orphan in the Fowles novel. the often unambiguously supernatural aspect of earlier Gothic disappears. between contemporary Gothic and its earlier forms. While Clegg’s house is not to be compared in grandeur with the castles and monasteries of Romantic Gothic. Modern Gothic usually has a surface realism that allows the reader to suspend disbelief in the face of apparently extreme events and situations.

the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’. or subjected to. quite out of his own control’. Collect some examples of Clegg’s behaviour which seem to you particularly reprehensible. Ostensibly. his kidnapping and imprisonment of Miranda leads directly to her death. She finds Sillitoe’s Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1959) particularly disquieting and criticises the author in the following terms: ‘Perhaps Alan Sillitoe wanted to attack the society that produces such people. did things she admired. Clegg is often vile. after all. but by the way that society has helped to ‘produce’ Clegg’s behaviour. but as representative – even stereotypically so – of a variety of attitudes which Fowles sees as characteristic of ‘mainstream society’. This seems to provide a clue about Fowles’ real interest in this novel. The cultural politics of modern Gothic The Collector is a particularly good example of how modern Gothic undermines cultural and political categories like the ‘normal’ and the ‘perverse’. it seems rather to confirm him as ‘subject’ – in the sense of being subject to. Even in his day-to-day treatment of her. describes him as ‘possessed. rather than language bestowing upon Clegg autonomy and subjectivity. Miranda writes about the working-class protagonists of celebrated 1950s writers like John Braine and Alan Sillitoe. But despite the invitation to judge Clegg in such black and white terms. too. His articulation of linguistic cliché underlines his reproduction of stereotypical forms of behaviour which obviously originate in the society outside him. At one point in her diary. by translating his experience into and out of the narrative forms of the mass media culture which surrounds him. For example. It is similarly tempting to dismiss Clegg as simply mad. But he doesn’t make it clear’. the social order which language both constructs and embodies? This lack of subjectivity is partly evident in Clegg’s lack of imagination and the automatic way that he so often responds to Miranda. On Clegg’s trip to Lewes after his victim’s death. what narratives does Clegg employ? Collect other examples of Clegg’s self-perception in terms of the narratives of the ‘popular’ media. like the people in that doctor’s waiting-room. and family and friends can be emotional ‘vampires’. What kind of language does Clegg use? Is it ‘original’ to him? If not. married her and all that’. he is fascinated not so much by the pathology of a single individual. Perhaps the most important reason for this is the way that Clegg is portrayed not simply as a ‘perverse’ individual. or the ‘sane’ and the ‘mad’. When plotting the kidnap. which on one level he undoubtedly is. an apparently innocuous neighbour or friend may become a ‘monster’ (consider the current spate of child-abuse scandals). Miranda. They all knew I was mad. a number of factors prevent the reader from responding so simply. for instance. that he is insane: I kept remembering how people in Lewes seemed to look at me sometimes. certainly. where does it come from? What is Miranda’s view of his language? How might one argue that. it occurs to him. it seems quite easy to place Clegg in traditional moral terms. Before actually meeting Miranda. Clegg admits: ‘I used to think of stories where I met her. The issue is highlighted by Clegg’s use of language.Chapter 3: Section B topic study: modern Gothic be as sickening as any of the torture scenes in Romantic Gothic. great stress is laid upon the way that Clegg constructs his self-image and thus his sense of identity. How significant is this pattern of self-construction? 43 .

arguably. Appalled by Miranda’s ‘forwardness’. Clegg ‘picked all those that looked most like the wretched bowl of fruit’. I really think he’d be happier if he wore starched collars’. ‘I got some ideas’. objectification) of women. His sexual expectations also seem conditioned by the pornography which society licenses and circulates. Smiling one minute and spiteful the next’. Clegg unconsciously attempts to approximate to a particular stylistic and semiotic ‘norm’. just like every woman’. At times. What expectations do Marion and Effingham have of ‘romantic’ love? Are these expectations any less coercive or damaging than those which Clegg holds? What is Hannah’s view of love? What are both authors saying about ‘modern love’? Clegg’s misogyny is clearly echoed by the society around him. In his expectations of gender roles and interaction. which might incline the reader to dismiss him as a freak. the very clichés he uses show the extent to which this is the case. By the same token. The way that Clegg sees Miranda as something to collect – it ‘was like catching the mazarine Blue again’ – is part of a larger process of the reification (i. to imprison and deform. Indeed. Thus he paradoxically treats Miranda at times as a ‘guest’. The violence that Clegg manifests towards his victim is also troublingly present in society at large. in such horrifying fashion. His attitude to art is also deeply conventional. For example. as when Miranda tries to teach him to dance or when he takes her for the star-lit night-walk. Now consider similar issues in Murdoch’s novel. he is much taken with a work called Shoes. marks the turning point of the novel. After one argument with Miranda. Given the overlap between Clegg’s behaviour and what is deemed ‘normal’ in society outside. What Fowles appears to allegorise. he confesses. When Miranda asks him to choose among her drawings. in this parody of the norm is the potential for the ‘normal’ marriage. Clegg again retreats behind stereotype. Indeed his disappointment at such behaviour. similarly. Clegg plays the attentive husband: ‘I got her breakfast…she gave me any shopping she wanted done…I cleaned up the house after I got back’. Clegg comments: ‘She was just like a woman. he conforms to the role expected of an old-fashioned ‘nice young man’. Again. it is not. it is quite obvious in other ways how ‘deeply conventional’ he is. Gender issues But there are more important ways in which Clegg’s conventionality manifests itself. which Miranda sees as expressive of a peculiar kind of ‘chivalry’. Clegg attempts to make Miranda conform to the behaviour he deems appropriate to her status a ‘nice young woman’. perhaps. from which. unreasonable for him to conclude that ‘a lot of people…would do what I did or similar things if they had the money and the time’. 44 . Even in his appearance. after which Miranda is doomed.The Novel Despite Clegg’s emphasis on his isolation and alienation from the society around him. ‘You’ve got a one-track mind. Unpredictable. He comments with acerbic justice on the newspapers’ treatment of the kidnapping: ‘If she was ugly it would all have been two lines on the back page’.e. Indeed. Miranda declares: ‘He becomes the norm’. He fantasises about hitting Miranda across the face ‘as I saw it done once by a chap in a telly play’. He is thus horrified when she uses ‘unfeminine’ language and is deeply upset when Miranda ‘offers’ herself to him. their relationship sometimes seems troublingly close to a conventionally romantic one. He is forever behaving ‘according to some mad notion of the “proper thing to do”’. Miranda notes how his ‘trousers always have creases. his shirts are always clean. of course. for example in the advertisements which so often precondition Clegg’s expectations about Miranda. towards the end of her ordeal.

derives from the reader’s increasing sense that Clegg is a representative rather than ‘perverse’ member of society. Thus G. Have your ovaries cut out. is another ‘collector’. there is also an undercurrent of ‘perverse’ desire in his attitude to Miranda: ‘You’re just the daughter I’d like to have.. just stood beside them at an exhibition. ‘a man in a million’. At moments G. I’m just sitting and watching.’s power over Miranda is partly a function of his success in isolating her. like Clegg.’s words and ideas’. To what extent are they comparable to those of Clegg? Two other links between the supposedly ‘ideal’ G. wherever.P’. and Clegg.P. by the end of her ordeal? Are there parallels to be drawn in the relationship between Marion Taylor and her male mentors? Miranda’s autonomy is limited in other ways by G.P.B.P. Some I’ve known well.Chapter 3: Section B topic study: modern Gothic Now consider such issues in Murdoch’s novel. his domineering behaviour contributes to Miranda’s passivity..’s success in this respect can be gauged by the number of times Miranda rehearses his opinions. Examine the kind of views G. bullied me. this could just as well be a description of Clegg. G. Some I’ve hardly known at all. He is characteristically extremely rude and unwelcoming to her friends. On one of the few occasions when Miranda does draw analogies between G. deprives Miranda of liberty in a number of important ways. Pygmalion-like.’s desire for dominance lapses into mental sadism of a kind Clegg is never capable of.P.’s desire. some I’ve seduced against their better nature. While she is in fact referring to G.P.P. He boasts to Miranda: I’ve met dozens of women and girls like you.P. Not only here. two I’ve even married. Obliquely. to his own idea of what a woman should be. The contradictions in his treatment of Miranda correspond to those evident in wider society. she comments thus: ‘But I’m not being to the full at all. Something’. and Clegg. G. As with Clegg. to fashion her. Such evidence again stresses the convergence between G. With G.P. when she comments on the state of contemporary England. why not? Does Miranda come to ‘see through’ G. of course. then. He is crushingly insensitive about Miranda’s artistic efforts when she first offers them for his inspection: ‘It was as if he had turned and hit me with his fist.. 45 . expresses about women. Twice she describes him as like G. G. The novel most clearly brings this out by creating a distinct series of more or less explicit parallels between Clegg and Miranda’s ‘ideal’ man.P. in the Tube.? If not. who at one point in the narrative is likened to Jane Austen’s Mr Knightley. I couldn’t hide it’. Is Effingham’s attitude towards Hannah anything like Clegg’s towards Miranda? How far are there parallels between the behaviour of Clegg on the one hand and Scottow and Hannah’s husband.P. As with Clegg. He responds to her disappointment with his customary brutal flippancy: ‘Have a tragic love affaire.P. toward their respective captives? Much of the horror of The Collector. and the ‘perverse’ Clegg are worth noting. G.P. That’s probably why I’ve wanted you so much these last few months’. like Clegg. Shaw’s Professor Higgins in Pygmalion without ever fully grasping the implications of G. Like Clegg’s. At one moment Miranda writes: He shocked me.P.P. taunted me – never in nasty ways. For instance. He didn’t ever force me in any way.P. First of all. she is honest enough to admit ‘these are all G. on the other.P. Does the reader share Miranda’s estimation of G. Women have the same function in his life as butterflies do in Clegg’s.

of course. like Effingham? Suggestions for further study While we have concentrated on The Collector and The Unicorn in this chapter of the subject guide. they’ll grow stronger and stronger and swamp us’. This raises serious doubts about the status and function of ‘high’ culture. Now consider class issues in Murdoch’s novel. In Fowles’ text. Clegg is. How does Miranda’s expression of such views affect the way we see her? To what extent can Clegg be seen as a kind of Caliban. Much modern Gothic is sceptical that any distinction can be drawn between ‘high’ and ‘popular’ culture in this respect. their unfortunate host. on Shakespeare’s The Tempest. the text draws heavily. earlier literary texts. you could read Fowles’ The Magus (1966). and allusion to. before imprisoning him. and therefore as a disadvantaged individual. She even uses the rhetoric of World War Two. Miranda’s attempts to ‘correct’ and develop Clegg’s aesthetic taste are expressive of her broader hostility to the somewhat indeterminate class to which Clegg’s windfall affiliates him. As you will no doubt have noticed. which is symptomatic of the decade in which these texts were written more generally. she loses confidence. defending a tradition of ‘breeding’ and ‘high’ culture against the barbarians represented by Clegg. In the end. or acculturate. What is the cultural/political significance of such reversals in his status within the moral scheme of the novel? Miranda’s attempt to provide Clegg with an aesthetic education is founded on the delusion that access to the ‘right’ kind of culture will liberate him from the destructive attitudes to women that have led to her imprisonment. Prospero and Miranda attempt to educate.The Novel To what extent can Murdoch’s novel be described as a ‘feminist’ text? Are there significant differences between her conception of gender politics and those of Fowles? Deborah Johnson has deplored Murdoch’s ‘often explicit assumption of “masculinist” perspectives and values. Despite his assumption of the name Ferdinand. asserting that ‘there’s nothing to hold back the New People. and its curious reluctance to deal directly or non-ironically with women’s experience’. If you want to work up an author. describing herself as one of ‘the Few’. These interests coincide in the attention which each text pays to the role of ‘high’ culture in constructing social identities in modern societies. more personal. even a victim? Identify the other. The Collector explicitly explores the way in which ‘high’ culture is a field of conflict articulating wider class tensions. circumstances in his life which make him seem like a victim. or Murdoch’s A Severed Head (1961) or The Italian Girl (1964) which 46 . you need not feel obliged to stay with these texts. What is the relationship of Dennis Nolan to Hannah? What is the significance of his and Gerald’s class origin? How does awareness of these facts affect our attitude to Hannah? How are gender relations in the narratives which are cited in Murdoch’s novel characterised? Is their effect beneficial on those who consume them. instead of a genre study based around modern Gothic. far closer to the disadvantaged subject-position of Caliban. On the evidence of this text. and a blurring of boundaries between culture and politics. if at times ironically. other. In Shakespeare’s text. do you think that such criticisms are justified? Class issues Further points of comparison between The Collector and The Unicorn include their interest in questions of class and their intensely self-conscious citation of. You can adapt the material above in a number of different ways.

you should be able to: • • • discuss the conventions and thematic preoccupations of modern Gothic compare modern variants of Gothic with earlier phases of the genre answer the sample essay questions with reasonable confidence and see how such a topic study might form part of your larger course of study to ensure successful preparation for the examination.G.’ Discuss in relation to two novels. A selection of such texts might include Carter’s The Magic Toyshop (1969) or The Passion of New Eve (1975). Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea (1966). Spark’s The Ballad of Peckham Rye (1960) or The Driver’s Seat (1970).Chapter 3: Section B topic study: modern Gothic are also all modern Gothic novels. you might want to compare an example of modern Gothic with an example of Romantic or Victorian Gothic – for instance. Angela Carter. You might want to study other modern Gothic writers – for example. ‘Modern Gothic derives its effects from disturbing received conceptions of normality and perversity. In what ways and to what effect does the contemporary novel borrow from popular culture? 2. Weldon’s Praxis (1978) or The Life and Loves of a She-Devil (1982). Emma Tennant or Fay Weldon. In what ways does contemporary Gothic both recycle and challenge the conventions and assumptions of earlier phases of the genre? 47 . Tennant’s The Bad Sister (1975) or Wild Nights (1979). attempt a definition of the characteristics of modern Gothic. M.If you are interested in the historical development of Gothic. Sample essay questions You are unlikely to get questions in the examination specifically on modern Gothic. Muriel Spark. 3. Taking two novels of your own choice. having studied the essential reading and some of the associated critical texts which have been recommended. 1. Lewis’s The Monk (1796) or Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights (1847). 4. David Storey’s Radcliffe (1963). Jean Rhys. see the sample examination paper at the end of this subject guide for a clearer idea of how you would have to adapt your knowledge of Gothic to answer examination questions. Learning outcomes By the end of this chapter.

The Novel Notes 48 .

Culture and the Contemporary American Novel. Frank (ed. Paul Auster’s City of Glass. Barth. Baudrillard. 0-33029108-4]. Paul Patton and Philip Beitchman. Recommended secondary reading On DeLillo LeClair.) Beyond the Red Notebook: Essays on Paul Auster. John ‘The Literature of Replenishment: Postmodernist Fiction’. Frank (ed. 1991) [ISBN 0-521-39893-2 (pbk). Dennis (ed. 1987) [ISBN 0252014839]. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (London: Picador. On Auster Borone. Translated by Paul Foss.Chapter 4: Section B topic study: post-modernism Chapter 4 Remember that you must answer on at least two texts by different authors for Section B questions. Book One of The New York Trilogy. 1995) [ISBN 0812215567 (pbk). 1985) [ISBN 0-330-29109-2. The essays by John McClure and Eugene Goodheart are especially worthwhile. 0822311356]. (London: Faber and Faber. 1998) [ISBN 0745310907 (pbk). But some of the other novels you might wish to focus on include: • • • • • • Italo Calvino If On a Winter’s Night a Traveller Thomas Pynchon The Crying of Lot 49 Angela Carter Nights at the Circus Robert Coover Pricksongs and Descants William Gibson Neuromancer Philip Roth The Counterlife. (London: Pluto. (Chicago: University of Illinois Press. 1987) [ISBN 0-571-15223-6]. Lentricchia. (New York: Semiotext(e). 1991) [ISBN 0822311445. in this chapter we will focus on: Don Delillo’s White Noise. 0-521-39291-8 (hbk)].) Introducing Don DeLillo. A very readable and insightful examination of the theme of consumption in contemporary fiction.) New Essays on White Noise. 1 Section B topic study: post-modernism1 Essential reading In order to provide a comparative perspective on different post-modernist styles. 0745310915]. 49 . Jean Simulations. Lentricchia. NC: Duke University Press. while maintaining a manageable field of study. The best introduction to Baudrillard’s writing. James Blank Fictions: Consumerism. (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. 1983) [ISBN 0936756020]. On post-modernism Annesley. Tom In the Loop: Don DeLillo and the Systems Novel. 0812233174 (hbk)]. (Durham. Atlantic 245(1):65–71.

Brian (ed. Connor. Jean-François The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge. Ihab The Postmodern Turn: Essays in Postmodern Theory and Culture. 0-631-16292-5]. A very useful pointer to other writings and interesting essays on the subject. Cohen. 1995) [ISBN 1566630975]. Peter (ed. Dee. taking in historical. (aka The Anti-Aesthetic. McHale. A fascinating treatment of the transition from modern to post-modern culture in terms of the rise of mass culture. The author covers broad cultural field of post-modernism. 1988) [ISBN 0-333-46180-0 (pbk). Fredric Postmodernism. (London and New York: Routledge. Josh Spectacular Allegories: Postmodern American Writing and the Politics of Seeing.) Postmodern Fiction: A Bio-bibliographic Guide. 1991) [ISBN 0860915379 (pbk). Forceful refutation of the very distinction between modernism and post-modernism – a useful counterpoint to the other texts. Brian Postmodernist Fiction. 0-582-06357-4 (pbk)]. 1998) [ISBN 0745312071 (pbk). An excellent collection featuring many brief but seminal analyses of post-modernism. On ‘self-reflexive’ or ‘meta’ fiction. 1989) [ISBN 0-631-16294-1 (pbk). 1992) [ISBN 0-415-06014-1 (pbk). 0860913147]. 0-333-45532-0 (hbk)]. (Basingstoke: Macmillan Education. (Methuen. Gerald ‘The Myth of The Postmodernist Breakthrough’ in Literature Against Itself: Literary Ideas in Modern Society. Hassan. Harvey. 0-415-03991-6]. Focuses on idea of hyperreality – some may find it a little too delirious! Lyotard. A theoretically informed treatment of post-modernism. Graff. very expansive analysis of post-modern culture. Hutcheon. 0-333-46179-7 (hbk)]. 0816611661 (hbk)]. Hutcheon. McHale. Kroker. A demanding but seminal analysis of post-modern culture in terms of the development of multinational capitalism. 0-631-16294-1. Very worthwhile for those who want to probe more deeply into the subject. (New York: Greenwood Press. Arthur and David Cook The Postmodern Scene: Excremental Culture and Hyperaesthetics. Huyssen.) Modernism/Postmodernism. 1986) [ISBN 0-333-45533-9 (pbk). (Ohio State University Press.The Novel Brooker. 1984) [ISBN 0-416-37140-X (pbk)]. (London: Pluto. focused on the relationship between writing and visual culture. (London and New York: Routledge. (Oxford: Basil Blackwell. 1984) [ISBN 0816611734 (pbk). (London and New York: Longman. 0745312128]. Mass Culture and Postmodernism. Stephen Postmodernist Culture: An Introduction to Theories of the Contemporary. 1987) [ISBN 0814204287 (pbk). A very good general introduction. 0-415-06013-3 (hbk)]. 1989) [ISBN 0-415-03992-4 (pbk). Linda The Politics of Postmodernism. A superb. Andreas After the Great Divide: Modernism. 0814204198 (hbk)]. Linda Narcissistic Narrative: The Metafictional Paradox. 1992) [ISBN 0-582-06358-2 (hbk). (Basingstoke: Macmillan. Brian Constructing Postmodernism. McCaffrey. A strong selection of essays that illuminate the key differences and similarities between modernism and post-modernism. Foster. (Oxford: Basil Blackwell. Hal (ed.) Postmodern Culture. (New York: Ivan R. 1989) [ISBN 0-415-04513-4]. or The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. 1997) [ISBN 0-631-20052-5]. David The Condition of Postmodernity. 1986). (London: Routledge. 1985) [ISBN 0745300030]. 50 . (London: Verso. (Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press. Jameson. economic.) (London and Sidney: Pluto. geographical and sociological perspectives.

1981) [ISBN 0801824494]. A useful discussion of post-modern irony. usually with a great deal of imprecision. it is worth beginning by making a distinction between two different usages of the term. A diverse and entertaining collection of essays. architecture. such as Frank Kermode and Gerald Graff. identify the emergence of the Cold War (i. cultural. if anything. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. Although most theorists date the ‘post-modern turn’ somewhere about the 60s. Alan Horizons of Assent: Modernism. 1993) [ISBN 0852246544. Wilde. it is because yet another dispute among theorists centres on when post-modernism started. the other prescriptive. that a single and authoritative account of it is impossible. that you think distinguishes the culture of the late twentieth century from previous cultures? Is it the dominance of consumerism and mass culture? A scepticism about grand political projects such as communism? Is it the economic and technological interconnectedness of different parts of the world? Or is it the instability of cultural. history and sociology. Fred Another Tale to Tell: Politics and Narrative in Postmodern Culture. deny the very term ‘postmodernist’ itself. (London: Verso. insisting that ‘modernism’ never ended! What is it. it may be a resistance to fixed definitions and externally imposed dogmas. as the beginning of the period. More to the point. this overusage seems to have succeeded only in rendering it yet more obscure and confusing. Post-modernism: problems of definition The terms ‘post-modern’ and ‘post-modernism’ have become part of the mainstream language of our culture. 0852246471]. Introduction The aim of this chapter is to introduce and explain some of the key concepts in postmodernist theory and cultural practice. if we are to attain some insight into the post-modern. political and economic transformations that have occurred in recent years. social and sexual identities? Look at the novels under discussion and identify which of these features they most clearly place in the foreground. Ross. philosophy. 1990) [ISBN 0860919927 (pbk). Nevertheless. after World War Two). (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Others still. ‘post-modernism’ has been useful as a term primarily as a way of describing and accounting for the many different social. 51 . TV and print media commentators.) Universal Abandon? The Politics of Postmodernism. employed frequently by radio. the one descriptive. first of all by pointing to the many different ideas and practices associated with it – for one of the only points of consensus among those who have attempted to define post-modernism is how difficult it is to define! There are so many competing versions of post-modernism. Far from clarifying the term. For some commentators. generated by disciplines as diverse as literature. Andrew (ed. is undesirable. we shall see that any such account. when America and the West transformed into ‘consumer societies’. such as Dale Carter.Chapter 4: Section B topic study: post-modernism Pfeil. This chapter will try to make some sense of this term. Postmodernism and the Ironic Imagination. and to demonstrate their relevance to an understanding of developments in the contemporary novel. If the phrase ‘recent years’ seems a little vague. for most theorists of post-modernism. 0860912779 (hbk)]. others.e. for if there is anything that can be said to characterise the post-modern sensibility.

The Novel

Others, especially contemporary French thinkers, have taken up the term not merely for the purpose of neutral historical description, but as a means of developing a distinct philosophical attitude appropriate to the fragmented and accelerated consumer society of the late twentieth century.
It’s worth noting from the outset that the ‘descriptive’ and ‘prescriptive’ approaches to post-modernism set out below are by no means mutually exclusive. A descriptive account such as Jameson’s will have clear implications as to how the culture of the future should work, while a prescriptive version like Lyotard’s will be grounded in a specific set of social and historical observations.

Describing post-modernism: Harvey and Jameson
We’ll begin by examining the descriptive, historical account of the post-modern, associated with thinkers such as David Harvey and Fredric Jameson, as well as Andreas Huyssen, Linda Hutcheon and Brian McHale. We will then see how some of the phenomena associated with post-modernity are dramatised in Don DeLillo’s novel White Noise. This will be followed by a summary of Lyotard’s prescriptive model of post-modernism, illustrated by Paul Auster’s City of Glass.
Each of the writers cited above highlights different aspects of the culture of postmodernity. We’ll discuss Harvey and Jameson below; for further reading, however, Huyssen’s After the Great Divide provides a cultural–historical approach to postmodernism, emphasising the importance of gender and mass culture to the emergence of a post-modern culture. Hutcheon’s two texts, The Poetics of Postmodernism and The Politics of Postmodernism, provide good overviews of the diverse fields of contemporary culture, whereas McHale’s Postmodernist Fiction concentrates on literature, and so may ultimately be the most useful for students of English.

David Harvey identifies the roots of the ‘post-modern condition’ in a series of major economic shifts that took place during the early 70s. With the collapse of the Bretton Woods agreement (which fixed the price of gold and the convertibility of the dollar) in 1971, and the Oil Crisis of 1973, came the new global economic regime of ‘flexible accumulation’. The relatively regulated, state-managed economy that had prevailed in the West up to this point gave way to one characterised by perpetual flux in labour markets, a new diversity and instability in patterns of production and consumption, and constant technological innovation. Harvey, employing an essentially Marxist methodology, argues that these economic shifts produced parallel cultural shifts, whereby the ‘relatively stable aesthetic’ of the modernist period is succeeded by ‘a post-modern aesthetic that celebrates difference, ephemerality, spectacle and the commodification of cultural forms’. Identifying similar changes in the global economy, Jameson’s work on postmodernism offers a more expansive account of the new cultural forms to which those changes gave rise. The unstable, fractured world of multinational capitalism, he argues, has given rise to a number of tendencies in contemporary cultural life. These include what he calls ‘the waning of affect’, by which he means the loss of any real emotional or psychological investment in the work of art by the artist. Compare, for example, a modernist text such as Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man with a post-modern text like Bret Easton Ellis’s Less Than Zero. Joyce’s deeply personal exploration of the anxiety and alienation of the young Stephen Daedalus contrasts starkly with the flat, disinterested and amoral tone of Ellis’s narrator Troy. It is as if

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Chapter 4: Section B topic study: post-modernism

the post-modern sensibility is too disaffected to express authentic human emotion and experience, producing a literary style that critic James Annesley has described as ‘blank’. A further, related, feature of post-modern culture identified by Jameson is what he calls a tendency to ‘pastiche’ – the imitation of ‘dead’ or redundant literary, architectural, filmic or other styles, not for the sake of parodying them, which would imply a specific moral or political intent, but simply to celebrate the diversity of styles for their own sake. Post-modernism refuses to privilege the style of any one period – whether Classical, Romantic or Modern – as the ultimate and authoritative one. Jeff Noon’s recent novel, Automated Alice, which acutely imitates Lewis Carroll’s style to tell a third, ‘cyberpunk’ Alice story, illustrates this tendency very clearly, fusing as it does Carroll’s Victorian style with a distinctly 1990s’ sensibility. Finally, Jameson speaks of the ‘derealisation’ of the world in post-modernist culture, the constant blurring of the boundaries between reality and fantasy. His example is Disneyland, both a ‘real’ and a ‘fictional’ space. Examples of ‘derealisation’ abound in post-modern fiction, for example in William Gibson’s Neuromancer, whose first sentence describes the sky as ‘the colour of television tuned to a dead channel’. What Gibson achieves through such a description is the confusion of ‘nature’, or reality (the sky), with ‘culture’, or unreality (television), pointing to the ways in which the media have penetrated everyday life to such an extent that they are now an inextricable part of our reality. This last point has been taken up with particular force by the French cultural theorist Jean Baudrillard. In post-modern culture, Baudrillard argues, cultural products ‘are conceived from the point of view of their own reproducibility’, by which he means that today’s mass cultural objects have never existed other than as copies, or what he terms ‘simulations’.
Try to locate some examples within contemporary culture of what Baudrillard means by ‘simulations’. What would it mean, for instance, to speak of the ‘original’ Mickey Mouse or the ‘original’ Big Mac?

This concept of simulation, as we will now see, is particularly central to our first illustrative text, White Noise.

White Noise: the simulated culture of postmodernity
White Noise is narrated by Jack Gladney, a professor of ‘Hitler Studies’ at a small American campus university. The novel recounts a series of encounters with death and disaster experienced by Jack and his family. In the first part of the novel, we are introduced to Jack’s family and friends, specifically to their experiences with, and ideas about, the television, shopping malls, supermarkets and college that make up life in the small town of Blacksmith. Taken together, these spaces form an illuminating picture of post-modern American culture. Early on in the novel, Jack and his friend, Murray Jay Siskind, a visiting professor with a special interest in ‘Elvis Studies’, visit a tourist attraction near Blacksmith known as ‘The Most Photographed Barn in America’. The incident establishes one of the novel’s most insistent preoccupations: the ‘derealisation’ of experience described by Jameson. The barn is deemed worth visiting not for any notable historical or architectural features, but simply because it is ‘most photographed’. In other words, it’s not the barn in itself that gives it meaning, but the camera-snapping tourists that

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The Novel

surround it. Murray suggests that it is impossible to ‘see’ the barn except through its mediation by the cameras: ‘Once you’ve seen the signs about the barn, it becomes impossible to see the barn’. In the second part of the novel, Jack and his family are forced to evacuate Blacksmith because of a toxic chemical cloud, named ‘The Airborne Toxic Event’ by the media, floating over the town. Again, the event takes on meaning only through its representation by the media, a point comically illustrated by the responses of Jack’s daughter and stepdaughter, Denise and Steffie, to the radio reports. The girls develop the ‘symptoms’ of exposure to the cloud only after the radio announces what those symptoms are. Thus, when they begin to develop sweaty palms after the relevant announcement, Jack’s son Heinrich informs his stepmother Babette that ‘There’s been a correction…They ought to be throwing up’.
What is it that DeLillo is trying to convey about the nature of reality in contemporary culture and society through these incidents? Try to locate other incidents of the novel that expose a gap between appearance and reality. Do you feel that DeLillo is critical of society’s increasing ‘derealisation’? Does he find anything in this tendency to celebrate? In particular, examine the effect of simulated culture on the family. What kind of a family are the Gladneys? In what ways do they conform to the stereotypical American nuclear family, and in what ways do they differ from it?

Despite the comedy, DeLillo’s point is profoundly serious. He is suggesting that even a momentous and terrible event such as a chemical disaster can be stripped of any meaningful reality by the mass media and technology. In the final part of the novel, Jack becomes embroiled in a plot sparked by his wife’s secret consumption of an experimental drug named Dylar, which claims to ward off the fear of death. Babette’s need for Dylar implies that in a culture in which every aspect of life, from food to the family, is simulated, the ultimate ‘authentic’ experience, death, becomes too terrifying to contemplate.
Why do you think DeLillo is so preoccupied with death in White Noise? Why does the thought of death so insistently disturb his central characters? What does he seem to be suggesting about our relationship to death and dying in a ‘simulated’ culture?

DeLillo’s novel, then, very acutely dramatises the experience of post-modern culture. Unlike the novel we’ll discuss below, City of Glass, it is not especially experimental in form – one might say it is a novel ‘about’ post-modernity rather than a postmodernist novel, exploring post-modern themes without necessarily expressing a postmodernist sensibility. Nonetheless, the element of pastiche that Jameson identifies is clearly present in the novel, in its ironic employment of mass cultural genres. Part One reads like a family sitcom (like the ‘Brady Bunch’ , the Gladneys are not an ‘organic’ family – of the four children, only one belongs to both parents), Part Two like a disaster movie and Part Three like a thriller.
How do the novels you have read compare with other post-modern cultural products? Watch the Coen Brothers’ movies, some of the finest examples of post-modernist pastiche; look at Andy Warhol’s silkscreen portraits and Bruce Nauman’s neon installations, which illustrate very clearly the idea of the ‘waning of affect’; and try to find a photograph of John Portman’s Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles, which Jameson regards as the exemplary post-modern building. Which aspects of narrative and imagery in these cultural forms can be identified in DeLillo and Auster?

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From the French nouveau roman of the 1960s (Alain Robbe-Grillet. Lyotard’s argument can be summed up by his description of the prevailing attitude of contemporary society as being one of ‘incredulity towards metanarratives’. authoritative narrative voice (or ‘metanarrative’) that can organise and ‘explain’ the events recounted. History. and Lyotard’s The Postmodern Explained to Children. or ‘metanarratives’ of ‘modernity’. he means that we no longer believe in grand ideological projects that claim they can resolve all human problems and create a utopia. How do the novels you have read undermine the idea that tensions and contradictions in society can be ‘resolved’? To what extent can the Dylar narrative in White Noise and the story of Peter Stillman’s experiment on his son in City of Glass be seen as implicit critiques of utopian thinking? The major political systems. and most obviously the Nazi Holocaust. A central feature of post-modern fiction. in which a plurality of social voices can coexist creatively even when in conflict. are complex and demanding writers. communism and global capitalism. or micro-narratives. City of Glass illustrates this tendency very clearly. By this rather daunting phrase. giving them a certain ideological and moral coherence. Ulysses. Baudrillard and Lyotard. Marguerite Duras) to the playful work of Italians Italo Calvino and Umberto Eco. politics and society on individuals. to experimental American writers John Barth. despite its celebration of a plurality of different speech registers and literary styles. shows that such imposed systems can wreak unspeakable horror. he or she unmasks the ‘realism’ of the traditional novel as an illusion. As we’ll now see. start with Baudrillard’s short volume. Claude Simon. literature in the last few decades has rejected the idea of a single. it may be worth reading an introductory text first: Bill Readings’ Understanding Lyotard and Douglas Kellner’s Jean Baudrillard are both recommended. is what is called ‘self-reflexivity’. multiple or a combination of the three. In so doing. Simulations. Donalde Barthelme and Robert Coover. Lyotard’s argument for social and political diversity. which arises out of its distrust of narrative authority. fascism. Lyotard argues for a world of ‘small’. Where a classic realist such as Dickens imposes the authority of his own narrative voice on the diverse range of characters and attitudes in his novels. he suggests they can take many paths from many different groups and individuals. the narrators of post-modern novels are typically unreliable. all impose one model of ethics. Even James Joyce’s great experimental work. ideas and activities coexisting not in absolute harmony but in creative tension. unstable.Chapter 4: Section B topic study: post-modernism Prescribing post-modernism: Lyotard We now come to Jean-François Lyotard’s philosophy of post-modernism. which he sets out in his book The Postmodern Condition. or ‘metafiction’. In contrast to the modernist illusion that all conflicts can be resolved by a single system. in which the author shatters the storytelling illusion by being self-conscious about how the text we are reading is written. can be seen at work in a different form in a number of post-modernist literary texts. If you’re more ambitious and want to read the writers themselves. ultimately imposes a unifying mythic pattern on that plurality. If you want to find out more about them. Against the assumption that all thought and action can be driven in a single direction. Both the French theorists discussed in this chapter. 55 .

it is a pastiche of the detective story. Quinn/Auster’s brief is to find and tail the father of his employer. when told by Quinn of what has happened. raising questions about its own status as a text and about the nature of authorship. 56 . Stillman is the victim of an experiment performed on him by his philosopher father. Waiting in secret for the elder Stillman at Grand Central Station. only to find seconds later that a second man is walking directly behind the first. language further explore the theme of contingency. The first book in Auster’s New York Trilogy. and experiments with. we continue to call a broken umbrella an umbrella. the novelist is forced to carry his story at random in one direction rather than another. ‘If I had been in your place. remarks. Daniel Quinn. unrealised plots. ‘pure’ language of God. ingeniously undercutting the illusion of a reliable narrator through its self-reflexive strategies. even though ‘“it can no longer perform its function” and has therefore “ceased to be an umbrella”’. he replies. Quinn finally decides to follow the ‘first’ Stillman. The elder Stillman’s curious ideas about. ‘Auster’ the character claims to know nothing of the Stillman case and.The Novel What other examples of ‘self-reflexivity’ can you identify in contemporary literature and culture? Can you think of instances of self-consciousness in recent films or television programmes. chance and randomness. Quinn spots him coming off a train. ‘This is Auster speaking’. who locked his son in a room throughout his childhood in order to test an obscure theological thesis about the ‘original’. How does the encounter between Quinn and ‘Auster’ illustrate the strategy of metafictional play? Consider how. to make our words ‘at last say what we have to say’. ‘Auster’ turns out to be a writer whose biography very closely resembles that of the Auster we know to be the author of City of Glass! However. Auster demonstrates that at every point. a detective writer whose wife has died. For example. I probably would have done the same thing’. or does it make the story more interesting and unpredictable to read? City of Glass: post-modernism and metafiction City of Glass is a classic example of the post-modernist approach to narrative. a decision that leads him to assume the role of detective in a strange and elaborate case. Stillman’s project is to iron this imprecision out of language. but the arbitrariness of this decision offers a sly self-reflexive comment on the arbitrariness of the novelist’s choices. Quinn tracks down and visits the ‘real’ Paul Auster and tells him of the events that have taken place. so that every actual plot is haunted by the ‘ghosts’ of other. Stillman finds that the existing form of human language is inadequate because it is imprecise. when the same caller rings and asks for Auster again. During the course of the novel. It questions the very possibility of narrative realism. Auster undermines the traditional conception of the author as the invisible but allknowing ‘God-like’ force at the centre of the book. What is the novel suggesting about the relationship between ‘authorship’ and authority or control? The novel’s plot plays consistently with the ideas of contingency and chance. at the mercy of contingency. which subverts the conventions of the crime genre by failing to resolve the web of events in a neatly resolved pattern. Initially he informs the caller that he has the wrong number. by relegating himself to the status of a minor character in his own text. ‘his face the exact twin of Stillman’s’. At the start of the novel the central character. Peter Stillman. for example? What effect does such self-consciousness have on our reading or viewing of the text? Does it simply intrude upon the ‘straight’ telling of a story. However. is phoned in the middle of the night by an unknown person asking for ‘The Paul Auster Detective Agency’.

You may find it useful to compare City of Glass with a more traditional detective story such as Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep. you should: • • • be able to discuss what is involved in the concept ‘post-modernism’ have some sense of the debate over the term and the complexities involved. The following list is by no means exhaustive: • • • gender and post-modernism race and post-modernism genre and post-modernism. 4. as well as where to read more about it have a grasp of how post-modernism has helped to shape contemporary literature at the levels of both theme and form. you may wish to go on to study other topics that might overlap with postmodernism and could be applied to other questions of section B of the examination. however. Suggestions for further study After studying the aspects of post-modernism covered in this chapter of the subject guide. art history and so on. Learning outcomes By the end of this chapter and having read the recommended primary texts and associated critical material. Marlowe. cut off from the world’s corrupting influence. Auster implies. In fact. In Lyotard’s terms. he believes that. may prove useful in studying post-modernist fiction. compare with those of Quinn? By responding to these questions. How does post-modern fiction treat the theme of consumer culture and its social and personal effects? Discuss in relation to at least two authors. film studies. 2. and the boy grows up to speak incomprehensible gibberish such as ‘Wimble click crumblechaw beloo’. Explain how writings in other disciplines. as well as their interrelation. In what ways does post-modernist fiction undermine conventional realist conceptions of plot and character? Discuss with reference to at least two novels by different authors. architecture. uncorrupted language of God. authoritative ‘metanarrative’ on the inherent diversity and complexity of language will inevitably collapse. to put ourselves in absolute control of our words. we might say that the attempt to impose a single. is doomed to fail.Chapter 4: Section B topic study: post-modernism This is his apparent motivation for isolating his son from the world for his first nine years. such as geography. The attempt to remove indeterminacy from language. the experiment fails. 57 . Sample essay questions 1. you should glean some instructive insights into the differences between traditional-realist and post-modernist fiction. What are the central differences between the two authors’ approaches to the genre? How do the methods of Chandler’s detective. the boy will speak the perfect. You must focus on at least two novels by different authors. Compare and contrast the use of post-modernist fictional strategies in the work of two authors of your choice. 3.

The Novel Notes 58 .

must be in want of a wife. murder. ‘The total subordination of the plot to the pattern of the autobiographical memoir is a defiant assertion of the primacy of individual experience. 5. which has its own laws just as it has its own flora and fauna. 8. dialogue. Section B Answers in this section must refer to the work of at least two different writers.’ (JANE AUSTEN. whether large or small.’ Discuss. Section A 1. 2. Candidates may not discuss the same text more than once. ‘The novel begins in a railway station…a cloud of smoke hides the first part of the paragraph.’ (ITALO CALVINO.’ Discuss this statement with reference to the work of one novelist you have studied. 9. the double. with reference to one novelist you have read.Appendix: Sample examination paper Appendix Sample examination paper Answer three questions. Don Quixote) Discuss this quotation with reference to one novelist you have studied. that a single man in possession of a good fortune. 7. choosing at least one from each section. 10. alienation. ‘We novelists are the examining magistrates of men and their passions. ‘It is truth universally acknowledged. 59 . 12. 4. ‘I have dropped the curtain over this scene for a minute. and to inform you of another.’ (EMILE ZOLA) Discuss how one novelist you have studied uses their work to examine social problems. 13. Discuss the significance of endings in the work of one novelist you have studied. 3. ‘In what you are writing you have only to make use of imitation and the more perfect the imitation the better your writing will be. 11. ‘What is character but the determination of incident? What is incident but the illustration of character?’ (HENRY JAMES) Discuss the relationship between character and incident in the work of one novelist you have studied. Discuss the treatment of one of the following themes in at least two novelists you have studied: forbidden love. allusions to other novels.’ (LAURENCE STERNE. ‘Every novel worthy of the name is like another planet. If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller) Discuss the significance of narrational self-consciousness in the work of one novelist you have studied. Explain how the formal innovations of any two or more novelists you have studied had a significant impact on the form as a whole.’ (MIGUEL DE CERVANTES. Pride and Prejudice) Discuss the significance of irony in one author you have studied. in this examination or in any other Advanced level unit examination. With reference to two or more writers. discuss how the social and economic conditions of the eighteenth century affected the rise of the novel. Discuss the significance of one of the following in the work of one novelist you have studied: embedded narratives. letters. to remind you of one thing. The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy) Discuss the significance of intrusive narrators in the work of one novelist you have read. childhood. 6.

’ (JANE AUSTEN. so that some expectations are rendered plausible. Discuss the significance of either satire or parody with reference to two or more novelists you have studied.’ (LEO TOLSTOY.’ Discuss this statement with reference to two or more novelists you have studied. every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. 15. ‘I do not think I ever opened a book in my life which had not something to say upon woman’s inconstancy…But perhaps you will say. Discuss the contribution to the novel form of two or more novelists who are of neither European nor American origin. Curricula for the study of the novel are often organised chronologically. 16. these were all written by men. Captain Harville in Persuasion) Discuss the contribution of at least two woman novelists from the eighteenth or nineteenth century to the art of fiction. 60 . ‘Genre conventions establish a kind of contract between the text and the reader. 17. Anna Karenina) Discuss the role of tragedy with reference to at least two novelists you have studied. 20. Explain how a different system of organisation might be productive with reference to two or more novelists you have studied. discuss what is distinctive about the representation of subjectivity in ‘modernist’ or ‘postmodernist’ novels.The Novel 14. ‘Happy families are all alike. With reference to the work of two or more novelists you have studied. and elements which would seem strange in another context are made intelligible with the genre. 19. 18. others ruled out.

Notes Notes 61 .

The Novel Notes 62 .

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