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Crişan, C., Mihaila, R., G. Volceanov . (coord.) Prelegeri de
literatură engleză, vol. I, Ed. Fundatiei România de Mâine, în curs de aparitie Obiective ale cursului: Obiectivul disciplinei este de a-i familiariza pe studenti cu romanul din secolul
optsprezecelea si al nouasprezecelea, atat din Marea Britanie, cat si din Statele Unite. In acelasi timp, se urmareste familiarizarea studentilor cu o serie de concepte critice precum cele de story, plot, order, Bildungsroman, roman epistolar, roman picaresc, satira, roman autobiografic; la sfarsitul cursului, studentii vor fi capabili sa explice aparitia romanului ca gen literar, sa mentioneze precursorii literari ai genului, precum si trasaturile principale ale romanelor studiate. Vor fi de asemenea capabili sa identifice intr-un text tipul de naratiune. Este
evidentiata legatura dintre contextul social, cultural şi roman In acelasi timp, se vor oferi posibile interpretari ale acestora prin diverse perspective (politica, feminista, naratologica). Se urmareste de asemenea formarea percepŃiei şi exprimării competente, astfel incat, la sfarsitul cursului, studentii sa fie capabili de a face analiza unui fragment dintr-un roman (după ce au fost studiate lucrările incluse în bibliografia obligatorie şi facultativă, Ńinând cont de indicaŃiile teoretice) . Titularul cursului lect.drd. Crişan Cristina
ConŃinutul tematic al cursului:
1. The Rise of the Novel. A Social and Literary perspective 2. Narrative Strategies in the 18th century Novel 3. L. Sterne’s revolutionary Novel. A Precedent of postmodern literature 4. The British and American 19th century Novel 5. Uses of realism in the classical Victorian novel: Charles Dickens 6. Versions of Victorian realism in George Eliot’s fiction: the philosophical and intellectual novel 7. Thomas Hardy: the last Phase of the Victorian novel
8. Nineteenth century American fiction: the dark voyage. Nathaniel Hawthorne - Puritan background and symbolism 9. Herman Melville: A National literature and Romantic individualism. Symbolical vs. mythical fiction
Bibliografie minimă obligatorie Crişan, C., Mihaila, R., G. Volceanov (coord.), Prelegeri de literatură engleză, vol. I, Ed. Fundatiei România de Mâine, 2007 The Cambridge Companion to the Victorian Novel, edited by Deirdre David, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2001 Chase, Richard, The American Novel and its Tradition, New York,Doubleday, 1957 Brooks, Cleanth, American Literature. The Makers and the Making, New York , 1983 Bibliografie facultativă Sanders, Andrew, The Short Oxford History of English Literature, Oxford University Press, 2000. The New Penguin Guide to London: Penguin Books, 1997 Frye, Northrop, Anatomy of Criticism (I, III : Historical Criticism; Theory of Myths), New York, Atheneum, 1967. În traducere Anatomia Criticii, Ed.Univers, 1972 . Daiches David, A Critical History of English Literature,volume 3, 4, London, 1979 English Literature, vol. 5,6 edited by Arthur Pollard,
1. The Rise of the Novel. A Social and Literary perspective The first course accounts for the appearance of the novel in English literature from a a social, philosophical and literary perspective. It describes the main innovative literary devices as well as the changes brought by the new genre within the context of
The 18th century is generally considered to be the first literary age during which we can speak of the novel as a well-established genre in British literature.The period is difficult to name; it was called by its contemporaries the Augustan or Neoclassical Age (as writers strove to identify themselves with the classical Roman model), or by other names such as Enlightenment, the Age of Reason. 18th century philosophers, such as Locke, Berkeley, D.Hume, Diderot or Voltaire stated the significance of the rational, positive spirit. In their opinion, human knowledge is empirical, based on the perception of the senses, hence its subjectivity and limits. Order was another first-rate value in the Augustan hierarchy. It was associated with thoughtful conduct,
efficiency instead of complexity, scientifical discoveries, acquiring connotations such as unity, harmony, precision, clarity. On the literary scene, the most influential genre that developed during the period was the novel. It was influenced by similar developments on the continent, among which Cervantes’s Don Quixote, which was translated in 1700, the writings of Rabelais, or of Lesage, particularly Gil Blas. The ordinary man became the norm, consisting of a variety of
individuals, such as the energetic merchant, the country gentleman directing his farms or estates, the lady in her social calls, the doctor, the lawyer, soldier, servant, labourer, in their occupations, the traveller observing life at home and abroad, and the writer including all these as his public and characters. Economic specialization provided a particular kind of audience – the lower and middle classes saw their lives and interests represented with a sympathy and seriousness that had hitherto been accorded only to their betters on the social scale. As A. Sanders has shown in his Short Oxford History of English Literature, the new style emphasized for the most part the everyday experience of men and women in society. Enlightenment philosophy required a simple, unequivocal instrument of expression, making use of a plain, native language to record experiments and conclusions. No rhetoric, exuberant prose was permitted to obscure common sense, as writers (such as D. Defoe) wanted to communicate their ideas without aiming at a literary distinction. As Ian Watt also shows in his study The Rise of the Novel, the appearance of writers such as D.Defoe, S.Richardson, H.Fielding within a single generation was probably due to the favourable conditions of the time. 18th century literary historians have seen realism as the defining characteristic which
differentiates their work from previous fiction (the term was apparently used as an aesthetic description in 1835 to denote the “vérité humaine” of Rembrandt as opposed to “idéalité poétique”). Primarily used as the antonym of “idealism”, the term would trace down all possible continuity to earlier works that portrayed low life and where the economic and social motives were given a lot of space in the presentation of human behaviour. Fiction is not a new invention, there is a great number of Middle Age prose stories, of Renaissance romances, allegories, character-studies or picaresque tales. Yet, fiction’s relation to life was peripheral, a mere idealization or satire. Defoe and Richardson are the first great writers in English literature who did not take their plots from mythology, history, legend or previous literature. In this respect, they differ from Chaucer, Spenser, Shakespeare who used traditional plots. However, besides the plot, much else had to be changed in the tradition of fiction: the actors in the plot and the scene of their actions had to be placed in a new literary perspective. The plot had to be acted in particular circumstances, rather than as had been common in the past – by general human types against a background determined by the appropriate literary convention. The novel is distinguished from other genres by the amount of attention it generally allots both to the individualisation of its characters and to the presentation of their environment. It is also related to the epistemological status of proper names as the expression of a particular identity (medieval or Renaissance writers preferred either historical or type names). The principle of individuation accepted by Locke was that of existence in space and time; Northrop Frye has seen “time and Western man” as the defining characteristic of the novel compared with other genres. Philosophical and literary innovations must be seen as resulting in “a circumstantial view of life”, a feature of the new prose. The narrative method that embodies this view is called formal realism, the premise that it is an authentic report of human experience, giving its readers details concerning the individuality of actors, particulars of their actions, through a more referential use of language than is common in other literary forms. The difference to earlier fiction consists in the fact that such passages were relatively rare, while the plot was traditional and highly improbable.
Topics for discussion 1. The eighteenth century is also named “the Augustan Age”. Which are the aesthetic ideals that best characterize this period? 2. Describe the main features of the 18th century novel.
2. Narrative Strategies in the 18th century Novel The second course discusses the narrative techniques used in various types of the 18th century novel (the confessional, autobiographical one and the memoir convention, the comic heroic, Bildungsroman, picaresque, epistolary ones), as well as in related genres, such as the satirical or false travelogue (Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels). It also focusses on the language, character, point of view pertaining to each of the novels approached. The proper creators of the British classical novel as we understand it today were Defoe, Richardson, Fielding. They belonged to the middle class and wrote of its interests and problems. At the same time, there was a direct interaction between author and his readers; this is visible in the direct forms of address, rhetorical questions and generally in the constant presence of the authors’ assumptions on the reactions of their readers. Daniel Defoe created a more complex sort of novel. In his work, the internal quest is doubled by an external quest, and the reader is invited to share in the hero’s dreams, visions and disillusions. His previous journalistic experience influenced both his style and choice of characters. Defoe’s language is simple, plain, and expressive, also owing to the precision required by journalistic writing, authenticity being a demand. Despite the popularity of some of his other writings, such as Moll Flanders (a low-born heroine’s progress towards middleclass respectability), undoubtedly the work by which posterity remembers Daniel Defoe remains Robinson Crusoe (1719). As to its narrative strategies, it can be interpreted as the synthesis of two existing traditions: the picaresque novel and the personal journal/memoir (confessional autobiography). The first presents the adventures of one individual in his journey towards maturity and respectability. The second narrates the psychological processes that shape
the life of its heroes, having a subjective, introspective character. This feature could also be linked to a general tendency of Puritanism, self-examination/scrutiny as well as the habit of interpreting everyday reality in order to reveal the intentions of Providence. Robinson Crusoe is regarded not only as a classic travel and adventure story, but also as the prototype of the novel, because of its emphasis on the daily, external and internal activities of ordinary people, using the formal realism technique. It was inspired by the real story of the survival of Alexander Selkirk, a sailor who had been shipwrecked for a number of years on a desert island. It is presented as a story told by an old man about his adventurous life: his experiences on several sea voyages, his adventures as a slave with the Moors, as a planter in Brazil, as a castaway on a desert island, and finally his rescue by a ship and return to civilization. His help and servant is a native he names Friday, and his other companion is a parrot. Defoe’s book was rooted in the rise of the modern capitalist society. This odyssey of a middle class individual became a myth of bourgeois society. It offers the reader a small version of the larger processes that were reshaping the face of the world everywhere in the 18th century: the Western spirit colonizing the world, dominating nature, ‘civilizing’ both the wilderness and its inhabitants. The novel can also be read as a metaphor of colonialism, the relationship between Robinson and Friday appearing as the archetype of colonial relations. Crusoe treats other human beings as commodities; when he meets them, they are transformed into his servants or slaves. He doesn’t ask Friday his name, he gives him one. The novel points to the mercantile mentality of the expanding British empire, to the assumed superiority of civilized man and to the nature of the Savage (consider issues such as British/imperial versus marginal, civilized versus barbarian, colour, race). Robinson’s experiences describe the internal journey of a Protestant individual, as in Defoe’s vision, the western entrepreneurial spirit is connected to religion. Defoe, a born Puritan, also lived in a sphere of utilitarian action. Yet, the other side of individualism is solitude ( consider Robinson’s “inner isolation”). Henry Fielding constructs the action in his novel Tom Jones on a larger scale, combining various literary techniques. Tom Jones appears as a comedy of manners, a picaresque narrative written in the third person as well as a Bildungsroman. It follows Tom’s evolution from an unruly youth to a mature nature and his reunion with Sophia. The
Bildungsroman is a literary genre that started in Germany, and is, in many respects, equivalent to a fictional autobiography. We consider to be Bildungsromans all the novels that deal with the development of a young man (or in some cases a young woman). According to the definitions of Webster’s Dictionary, a Bildungsroman is “a novel dealing with the education and development of its protagonist. There are variations within the genre, and one or more elements may be left out of a particular novel, which makes it that novels such as Joyce’s Ulysses, Dickens’s David Copperfield or Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre can be included in the category. Fielding also used a serious amount of organization, so that his novels are well constructed and symmetrical. There is a system of polar symmetries in the strucure of the characters: Tom (positive) versus Blifil (cunning, scheming, hypocritical). Fielding describes types, therefore the names are mostly allegorical (Tom Jones – a common name), Allworthy (All-Worthy), Sophia (Wisdom). From a narratological point of view, the author is omniscient (he knows everything about the characters, is everywhere, in possession of truth). He is a parental authority that guides the readers, using a “bill-of-fare to the feast” (the metaphor of literature as food to be consumed). The novel has a meta-textual quality (is self-reflexive), being framed by introductory chapters to its books. Fielding is the first author to consciously talk about the new genre, about the way to write a novel, being aware of his double position as theorist and writer. He considers himself to be the founder of a new province of writing, pleading for realism, truth, a new ethos (the bourgeois taste), emancipated from the old type of romance (medieval, imaginary styles). The new kind of literature, called “a comic epic poem in prose” should have balance, dynamism, usefulness – it is therefore a shift from the aristocratic kind of writing to the democratic one. S. Richardson is the creator of epistolary novels, which are novels created through the interplay of letters, and represent a popular genre in Augustan England. Art in his opinion, as well as in Fielding’s, was made to instruct, to offer a model to be imitated, to educate while amusing. Through his first person narratives, the author pries inside his characters’ consciousness. Richardson shows a close attention to the various pressures that society and morality placed on women, and the effects of these pressures on their psyches (through his depiction of characters such as Clarissa and Pamela). An epistolary novel is written as a series of documents, usually letters, although diary entries, newspaper clippings can also be used. An
aspect of the epistolary novel is that it allows the writer a realist approach to several points of view, while avoiding the use of the omniscient narrator. Pamela, published in 1740, tells the story of a virtuous servant who resists the advances of her master. In the end, conquered by her purity, the master marries her. The readers were sympathetic of Pamela’s honour being threatened, and satisfied to see her virtue rewarded in the end. The novel appears therefore as a moralistic story. Pamela’s innocence may appear self-conscious and premeditated, which represents the consequence of the hard, calculating and almost cynical view of virtue and vice that is visible throughout the book. She does not rebel against the system, but joins it, and through this, Richardson can be said to have been able to both destroy and support the patriarchal order of the novel: he destroyed it in having his feminine character resist the persecution of her (male) aristocratic oppressor, but he upheld it in having her marry him– a convenient form of happy ending. The same tension between individualism and the values of a patriarchal family are explored on a more tragic tone in Richardson’s other novel, Clarissa. Clarissa Harlowe, the heroine of the novel, is a virtuous and intelligent young woman of an upper middle class family, who, after the death of her grandfather, has become the heiress of his estate. Interestingly, in Richardson’s world, property offers no power for Clarissa. Significantly she gives control of her fortune to her father, thus continuing in the position of economic and familial subordination to him. Robert Lovelace is an attractive, witty, if morally dubious aristocrat, courting Arabella, Clarissa’s sister. Clarissa’s family try to make Clarissa marry a man of their choice, whom she detests. Scared at the prospect, she runs away to London under the ‘protection’ of Lovelace, who is in fact planning to simply add her to the list of his conquests. She resists his advances, and in time, Lovelace becomes more and more impressed by her virtue and her personality. In an access of passion he rapes her, she manages to escape him but remains ill and eventually dies, but she does so in full consciousness of her virtue, and hoping for a better lot in the afterlife. Lovelace will die too, in a duel with Clarissa’s cousin and in the end the girl’s family realize the misfortune their decisions have caused their daughter. As in his other work, in Clarissa, Richardson sets to work an ethic based primarily on reason. Pamela is a calculated virtuous woman, yet Clarissa’s case is more complicated. In Clarissa, Richardson preserved the basis on which the moral code of his heroine was constructed, yet he presented it in a more sympathetic manner. Morality is assessed rationally, and Clarissa
opposes cold reason to the passion that Lovelace displays. At the same time, Clarissa and Lovelace are not just opposed individuals; they each represent a class, a moral code, and a way of life. We are again confronted with the contrast between the bourgeois middle class virtuous woman and the promiscuous wealthy aristocrat that Pamela had dealt with. From this perspective, Clarissa is about the tension between the middle class and the aristocracy; this tension is visible at many levels, but Richardson also constructs it as a complex struggle between two individuals who each try to attract the other into their own culture. A feminist reading of the novel would emphasize the double pressure exerted on Clarissa as woman in 18th century England: that of her family and that of Lovelace, both imposing their wills and trying to use her to their ends. However, Richardson rejected the path of female emancipation or active feminism. Clarissa’s plight is connected to her own progress into the depths of the conventional female role of victim. She does not try to free herself from her fate, but succumbs to it step by step; from eloping, to being raped, to dying, Clarissa emerges as a powerful stereotype, that of the suffering virtuous virgin. A very schematic construction of womanhood follows: into black and white. On the other hand, however there are many ways in which Richardson validates the individualism of his heroine. Indeed, the novel can be read as an epic of resistance to the reduction of women to objects or instruments by a patriarchal society. Even if at an external level she is a victim, at a psychological level every act of oppression against Clarissa makes her stronger in her own beliefs. As pointed out earlier, when she dies, she dies certain of her virtue and of her rightfulness, so that from this perspective even her death represents a triumph over her enemies. The story of her sufferings, carefully analyzed and described by Richardson, anticipates the writing of such modernist masters as James Joyce and Virginia Woolf. Although the epistolary novel as a genre failed to develop in English literature in the centuries to come, it is considered to have anticipated and laid the grounds for the stream of consciousness technique and the interior monologue. Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (1726) is not a novel proper; it is a satire with a direct address to his contemporary England. Although it is full of allusions to contemporary historical events, it is as valid today because its objects are man’s moral nature and the defective political, economic and social institutions. Swift adopts the form of the imaginary, fantastic voyage, in a parody of traditional travel literature. It looks like Robinson Crusoe but it is not similar to it. It has as objective the creation of a fictional world that seems real. The
moment Gulliver is shipwrecked in Lilliput we realize, from the description of the little inhabitants of the country, that it is not a realist fictional work, but a fantasy. Gulliver goes on four voyages, all of which end disastrously and which allow for Swift to satirize four aspects of the British society of the time. In the first part of Gulliver’s Travels, Swift satirizes the court of George I. His primary satirical device here is allegory- the Lilliputian government leaders stand for Whig leaders in the tumultuous years between 1708 and 1726. In Part II, a voyage to Brobdingnag, the country of the giants, it is Gulliver who represents the English attitudes which Swift wishes to criticize, when confronted with the good giants that stand for the ideal of the enlightened monarchy. From the attitudes and practices of the Lilliputians Swift makes his readers realize in how many ways these doll-like creatures are small. Their physical dimensions are symbolic by their meanness, pettiness and narrowmindedness. In this small world Gulliver is the giant. The perspective changes dramatically in the second voyage when Swift’s character is shipwrecked on the Brobdingnag shore. Not only does he become Lilliputian compared to the king of Brobdingnag, but also he is petty, mean and shallow in comparison. The giants’ monstrous appearance is in fact a hint at their broadness of mind and their goodness, as Swift transposes literally the qualities of the spirit. When he appeared in the land of Lilliput, in many ways Gulliver was disgusting, repulsive and grotesque. Yet finally it was the delicate, tiny Lilliputians, who proved to truly be grotesque. As far as the Brobdingnagians are concerned, physically they are just as repulsive to Gulliver as he was to the inhabitants of Lilliput. Yet it is the giants compared to Gulliver who are refined, sophisticated and generous. Their big bodies hide big hearts and wide horizons. In his creation of the two parallel worlds of Lilliput and of Brobdingnag, Swift accomplishes two things. The Lilliputians are literally small; they are also figuratively small (small-minded and narrow of spirit). Outwardly they may seem attractive, yet their ‘smallness’ makes them repulsive to the spirit. The inhabitants of Brobdingnag are literally and figuratively big (large in their sympathies, big-hearted, open-minded). In Part III, the inhabitants of the island of Laputa are allegories for certain members of the Royal Society, whom Swift was attacking satirically, thus criticizing the exaggerations that the fascination for science could attract. This third part of Gulliver’s adventures is therefore constructed as an attack against the extremes of theoretical and speculative reasoning, which
Swift criticizes because he believes that such excessive interest in science can lead those involved in it to lose touch with reality. The Laputans and Projectors are isolated scientists, cut off from the world because they are so concerned with abstract matters and with their individual abstract preoccupations. In Part IV, the allegories are not so clear-cut; the Yahoos and the Houyhnhnms are both exaggerated representations. Both represent two opposite tendencies that naturally live side by side in the human spirit, namely instinct and reason, a contrast dear to the hearts of the Augustans. If a healthy mix of instinct and reason is human, pushing to the extreme in one or the other direction may have monstrous results. Swift presents us with the fruits of such an experiment: the Yahoos, who are the embodiment of a humanity ruled by instinct only are just as repulsive as the Houyhnhnms, who are intelligent horses, embodiment of a cold humanity, ruled by reason only. At the same time, this part is also a satire directed against mankind and against its extremes. Owing to their great stores of reason, the Houyhnhnms have done away with flaws such as lying, corruption, infidelity, from their world. In certain ways theirs is an ideal world. Yet such a society which is governed entirely by reason appears under Swift’s pen as less attractive, less desirable, less human, because it lacks any human warmth, any human feeling of love, affection, devotion, generosity. As an interesting comment on such a society governed by cold reason only, Swift dwells on the fact that to the Houyhnhnms even life itself seems less precious, as both birth and death are natural things, inevitable, common and therefore indifferent to everyone. Due to his mix of reason and feeling, Gulliver sees himself as neither a Yahoo nor a Houyhnhnm. Caught between these two contrasting worlds, Swift’s character – an embodiment of common humanity – finds it impossible to identify with either of them. Although it is written in the first person, and the reader has access to the realities described in the text only by means of the consciousness of the main character – Gulliver – the book lacks the internal coherence of a novel. There is no unifying plot, and no unifying personality. Indeed, Gulliver, although the main character, is not a hero, but a persona. In literature, a persona is a mask, a device used by the writer to express his own opinions in a text. It is not a true character, but rather a particular point of view from which to write. Gulliver lacks a coherent psychology, we do not follow his development, there is no element of growth as a result of his explorations, as he merely represents the means by which Swift constructs his
satire. If we were to compare him with Robinson Crusoe, for instance, it becomes obvious the extent to which in this novel its author, Daniel Defoe, dealt with the inner workings of his hero’s mind, the transformations his personality underwent as a result of his adventures, while Gulliver merely describes and comments on the realities he encounters. Swift’s work may be interpreted as a human allegory, even a dystopia. It is a philosophical meditation, showing in an ironic tone the errors, frailties, vanities, absurdities that human beings may be prone to. This is realized in Swift’s style, which is very characteristic of his age: clear, pointed, precise. In the neoclassical tradition, there are no rhetorical flowerings, no repetitions or studied effects. Homework 1. Read D.Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe and paradigm of colonial relations. explain why it is generally taken as a
2. Read H. Fielding’s Tom Jones and focuss on the various literary techniques employed. What is the function of his introductory chapters? Dicuss the allegorical character/structure in Tom Jones. 3. Why are Richardson’s novels viewed as an early exploration of the heroine’s psychology?
3. L. Sterne’s revolutionary Novel. A precedent of postmodern literature This course focusses on L.Sterne’s experiments with the novelistic form. In his main work, Tristram Shandy, the main interaction seems to be between the narrator and the readers, rather than among the characters in the book, while the disruption of chronological time, plot and of the narrative conventions make it an interesting early commentary on the strategies of writing. It has become a significant precedent for later 20th century writers and literary critics alike. By the time Sterne (1713-1768) started writing, the psychological elements began to be perceived as more important both in art and in philosophy. The individuality of the writers impressed itself more and more unreservedly upon the development of this aspect which, in the days of Defoe and even Richardson, had been dealt with primarily from outside. Sterne’s work will bear the mark of this new tendency in British thought and aesthetics.
Tristram Shandy is an unusual creation that mocks all the conventions of the new genre of the novel. Its importance for contemporary literary criticism lies in the fact that it is a precursor of a very modern phenomenon, the anti-novel with an anti-hero, with ‘failure’ as one of its major themes. This is due to its original structure that does not respect the conventions of story-telling, as well as to the special relationship between author and reader that it proposes. By manipulating the idea of readership as he pleases, Sterne shows us that a book is first and foremost an object directed to an audience, and at the same time, Tristram Shandy is also a reminder that a novel is a material object, not just a transparent story. It is no accident, then, that Sterne’s creation should have exerted a profound influence on the fiction of James Joyce, because both Sterne and Joyce liked to use the possibilities of prose fiction and mould it into something very different from the ordinary novel. We can therefore say that by using caricature, digressions, by employing sometimes absurd language to describe the most ordinary things, tricks, and by his rich distribution of strange, eccentric characters, Laurence Sterne’s play with conventions announces modernist strategies and explains why Tristram Shandy enjoys critical attention even today. This nine-volume-comic meta-novel remains one of the most interesting reflections on the nature of the novel. Tristram Shandy is a metanovel because ultimately it is an extended meditation on story-telling, having as central premise the idea that what the story is about is of secondary importance to how it is told. As a result, digression is central to the author’s narrative logic and it is the central narrative strategy of the book, thus giving it an unusual structure. The so-called narrative intrusions and comments actually form a linear narrative whose subject is the composing of a narrative. The text intends to be an autobiography of Tristram, but instead ends up to be a long digression that never manages to tell the story it sets out to tell. The birth of the hero, which the author sets about to discuss on the first page, does not finally occur until volume four, and instead the novel largely deals with events and characters from before the hero’s birth. Tristram’s biography was never finished, as the story of Tristram’s life is not told by the end of the ninth volume. In their own ways, the previous authors, from Defoe to Fielding or Richardson, had all followed the realist trend. Sterne however rejects the temptation of mimesis (imitation of reality), and in Tristram Shandy he sets out to undermine all the subgenres that had become established as part of the novelistic tradition. This new trend is visible from the title; The Life
and Opinions: it was not merely a story of the life of Tristram Shandy, but of the extraneous elements that constituted his ‘opinions.’ One interesting characteristic of Tristram Shandy is its use of heterogeneous materials, which force the reader to become involved in the act of reading and ‘re-writing’ of the text in fashions the usual prose of Sterne’s contemporaries do not. For instance, a black page is supposed to signify the mourning caused by the death of Yorick, blank pages appear to represent pages torn out while an empty page is offered to the reader who is asked to write his own description of Widow Wadman’s beauty, since Sterne acknowledges the subjectivity of ideal beauty, and wants each of his readers to use their own ideal of such beauty. Moreover, apparently misplaced chapters suddenly appear out of sequence, thus maintaining constant the connection between the author and his reader and drawing attention on the fact that the text is not transparent, but opaque and needing interpretation. As a result of this original technique, Sterne’s book is particularly useful for a clear understanding of such narratological concepts as the distinction between story and plot, the narrative time, the chronological time, or the speed of the narrative. Story is a chronologically-ordered representation of all the primary and essential information concerning characters, events and settings. It is an abstract version of events (the historical truth, so to speak), but it can be structured into the matter of the novel, namely into the plot. One can say that the story is the rough material awaiting the organizing hand of the writer that will transform it into plot. As distinct from the story, that respects the main chronological assumptions of a narrative, the plot is subject to the transformations that the author chooses to make to the structure, sequence of description of the events. Thus the events can be arranged in a sequence which can differ from the strict chronological sequence; the amount of time which is allotted in the novel (the plot) to the various elements of the story is determined with respect to the amount of time which these elements take in the story; when presenting the events, a choice is made from among the multiple points of view from which they can be narrated. As far as the relationship between text and time in the plot is concerned, we can identify three major aspects of temporal manipulation in the movements from story to plot: the order, which represents is the relation between the assumed sequence of events in the story and their actual order of presentation in the novel; the duration, which is the relation between the extent of time that events are supposed to have actually taken up; and the frequency, which refers to the relation
between the number of times an event happened in the story, and the number of times it is narrated in the plot. From this narratological perspective it is easy to see that Sterne uses many techniques that contradict the apparent naturalness of its conversational tone and expose the distinction between the story he is trying to tell (the life of Tristram Shandy) and the plot he constructs (the ninevolume digression that hardly tells us ‘what happened’ to Tristram). In his construction of the plot, Sterne manipulates time, playing with order, duration and frequency (a surprising timescheme). From Locke, Sterne learned that the true life is lived in the mind, and each mind has its own private sense of time, so that he understands time not as an objective, external element, but rather as a private, subjective element. The writer is able to manipulate it, twisting the story into plot, inserting digressions, moving ahead of the story, anticipating events that are going to happen, and thus drawing the reader’s attention to the text, which refuses to be transparent, in the realist fashion. As pointed out earlier, Sterne’s attention to subjectivism, psychological time, and the perpetual present make him the ancestor of the thought of Henri Bergson, Andre Gide, Thomas Mann, Marcel Proust, and of course James Joyce. Thus, Laurence Sterne remains a clear innovator and an original precursor of the modern novel, in his attempt to reproduce the flow of time in unusual patterns of narrative, memory, and thought, as well as in his emphasis on the constructedness of the plot, on the relationship between author and reader, and on the direct involvement of the reader in the process of imaginatively constructing the text.
Homework 1. Read Sterne’s Tristram Shandy and account for his challenge of mimetic
conventions. 2. Tristram Shandy as fictional autobiography. 4. The British and American 19th century Novel. The next course presents the cultural and intellectual background of the 19th century British (Victorian) and American novel. The recurrent features of the two variants are comparatively considered, as well as their relation to previous narrative forms/ types/techniques. The dominant modes (realism vs. romance) are illustrated taking into
literary works of the period as well as modern critical
assumptions. Conventionally, the British 19th century novel is also called the Victorian novel. The Victorian age overlaps with the reign of Queen Victoria, from her coronation, in 1837, to her death, in 1901. From a geopolitical point of view, it stands for the age of the British empire which occupied then one third of the world. Britain’s geopolitical power in the 19th century was a consequence of its being the first industrialized country in the world, due to the scientific and technological progress it had been involved in since the end of the 18th century.
Urbanization changed the countryside, with the displacement of the rural population: this was reflected in literature by the nostalgic rememberance of the rural past in many Victorian novels. From a sociological point of view, the dominant middle-class ethics of progress involved materialistic optimism but also excessive pragmatism and mercantilism. Moral duty remained an imperative with most people, whether it be supported by self-interest or Christian principles. But it also involved cultural ambition, an urge of the middle classes for instruction; culture will be used as a public service, with a didactic purpose. The Victorian state was essentially considered as being liberal, non-interventionist, however, the liberal legislation was considered as impoverishing or oppressive towards the working class. This led to a social unrest, requiring the adoption of a number of Reform Bills which enfranchised the man of property but also meant the modernization of British society. The acts passed in their favour were partly due to the works of the novelists of the day who revealed the harsh existence of children as well as the cruel methods of education. In the mid-Victorian epoch, there was no national educational system and little provision for the secondary education of girls. However, the Victorians managed to increase the participation of masses to the phenomenon of culture. They demanded universal primary education and the inclusion of modern sciences and languages in the curriculum. The movement for the emancipation of women became more accentuated in the last thirty years of the Victorian age (J.S. Mill wrote The Subjection of Women in 1869, supporting their social and professional emancipation, providing an impetus to the feminist movement of his time). The Victorian Age can be considered modern in so far as it included generalised mass
literacy and the modernization of education as well as quality journalism reflected in the wide circulation of prestigious magazines. One monthly issue of a literary periodical would contain scientific or general critical essays, poetry and serialised fiction. Among the effects of the Victorian sense of a useful culture is the didactic tone of Victorianism, adapted to the
utilitarian view of culture as a gain from the “greatest happiness of the greatest numbers “ standpoint. We should also focus on man’s position in the universe during the Victorian age in order to understand Victorianism. The orthodox puritanism of the average man was an uncritical ethically religious doctrine that pragmatically invoked Biblical spirituality to support the ascent of the imperial, most civilized nation. Utilitarianism, the specific Victorian ideology corresponding to this social component, was based on the 1776 treaty The Wealth of Nations, written by the Scottish economist Adam Smith and it assumed that progress of civilization should be associated to increasing national wealth. But the other component of the Victorian cultural background was less optimistic, implying secularism, rationalism based on the study of science and its revelations. Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (1859) challenged the Victorian perception upon life and old explanations in the field of biology or geology. The evolutionary theory led to the questioning of man’s role and importance in the world and influenced the doctrines of important novelists, such as George Eliot or Thomas Hardy. The Victorian reading public firmly established the novel as the dominant literary form of the era. The outstanding characteristics of the Victorian novel were: a) The English novel originated as a middle-class genre, and it was the logical reading matter for the 19th century bourgeoisie b) Unburdened by tradition or status, the novel was flexible, and hence adaptable to the portrayal of the multitude of changing situations in Victorian life c) Escapism had become a psychological industrialism. d) Realism was the justification for the conscious reader as escapism was the actual satisfier of his unconscious needs. Victorian novelists appealed to their audience with the appearance of the real world. necessity to an era troubled by chaotic
e) The earnest Victorians sought and found in contemporary novels instruction for living amid great complexity and change. f) The novel assumed for the 19th century the mission fulfilled in earlier eras by the epic: formulation of the “myth” of the age. The outstanding characteristics of the Victorian novel were: a) Acceptance of middle-class ethics and morals. The “good” characters conform to principles of bourgeois orthodoxy and are properly rewarded. b) Social orientation. The major human problem treated by the Victorian novelists is the adjustment of the individual to his society. c) Emphasis upon characters. The Victorian novelists strove to produce fascinating
characters who resembled people their readers knew or would like to know. Most characters were middle class, in middle class setttings, and with the typical middle-class preoccupations, even in “historical” novels. Their complexity was almost wholly emotional. Lower class figures were usually subordinate, treated patronizingly. d) The hero. The central figure, though proving human weakness, is moulded to the Victorian ideal of the rational man of virtue. Human nature is believed to be fundamentally good and deviations from the bourgeois code are errors of immature judgement to be corrected when becoming mature. David Lodge shows that the Victorian novel is a synthesis of pre-existing narrative traditions (the comic vein of Henry Fielding’s narratives, Richardson’s sentimental/didactic or Clara Reeve’s Gothic/romantic) rather than a continuation of one of them or an entirely new literary phenomenon and underlines the fact that the dominant mode, the synthesising element is realism (in the tradition of D.Defoe). The novel appeared as a reaction against miraculous tales and stories of chivalrous deeds, its essence being the parody of so-called elevated genres and the expression of the truth of everyday life. Discussing the nature of the novelistic discourse as it was established in the Victorian epoch, Henry James argues in his “Art of Fiction” that “the air of reality –the solidity of specification seems to me to be the supreme virtue of a novel – the merit on which all the other merits (including the conscious, moral one) helplessly and submissively depend. If it be not there, they are all as nothing, and if these be there, they owe their effect to the success with which the author has produced
the illusion of life. The cultivation of this success, the study of this exquisite process form, to my taste, the beginning and the end of the art of the novelist. They are his inspiration, his despair, his reward, his torment, his delight. It is here, in very truth, that he competes with life; it is here that he competes with the painter in his attempt to render the look of things, the look that conveys their meaning, to catch the colour, the relief, the expression, the surface and the substance of the human spectacle. All life solicits him, and t o render the simplest surface, to produce the most momentary illusion, is a very complicated business”. 18th century novelists had also used techniques of travel stories, biographies, diaries, historical writings. The idea was that the novel must adhere to truth and probability. The history of the novelistic genre reflects the oscillation between two tendencies, represented by the realistic vein and the romance, the latter being illustrated in medieval English literature by the legends of King Arthur, collected by Sir Thomas Mallory in his Morte d’Arthur (1485). Clara Reeve, a Gothic and sentimentalist novelist of the later half of the 18th century, stated the difference between the two genres in an often quoted fragment introductory to her fiction (in the 18th century, the meaning of the word Gothic pointed to the wild, barbarous and crude; the fashion of the Gothic novel reached its highest limit in the 1790s and the early years of the 19th century – they were tales of the macabre, fantastic and supernatural, usually set amid haunted castles, graveyards, ruins, wild picturesque landscapes): “The Novel is a picture of real life and manners and of the times in which it was written. The Romance in lofty and elevated language describes what never happened nor is likely to happen. The Novel gives a familiar relation of such things, as pass every day before our eyes, such as may happen to our friend, or to ourselves; and the perfection of it is to present every scene, in so easy and natural a manner and to make them appear so probable, as to deceive us into a persuasion (at least while we are reading) that all is real, until we are affected by the joys or distresses of the persons in the story, as if they were our own.”. It follows that the romance is oriented towards mythic, allegorical or symbolic forms, being less committed to the immediate and faithful reflection of reality than the novel. The American 19th century novelist N. Hawthorne declares in his preface to The House of the Seven Gables, that the novel “aims at a minute fidelity not merely to the possible, but to the
probable and ordinary course of man’s experience” whereas “ when a writer calls his work a romance, it need hardly be observed that he wishes to claim a certain latitude, both as to its fashion and material, which he wouldn’t have felt himself entitled to assume had he professed to be writing a novel [… ] The romance - while, as a work of art, it must rigidly subject itself to laws, and while it sins unpardonably so far as it may swerve aside from the truth of the human heart, has fairly a right to present that truth under circumstances to a great extent, of the writer’s own choosing or creation. He will be wise, no doubt, to make a very moderate use of the priviliges here stated, and, especially, to mingle the Marvellous rather as a slight, delicate and evanescent flavour, than as any portion of the actual substance of offered to the public. In British literature, Charlotte Brontë’s (1816-1855) fiction might be estimated in terms of the predominance of the romance within the novel form, of the romantic heritage which involves exaltation of the faculty of feeling and imagination, an intense dramatism, lyricism. Her novel Jane Eyre is the story of a search for identity in the Victorian environment. The novel is a blend of Realism (the harsh living conditions of the ill-favoured classes) and romance elements (Gothic characters and landscapes). Formally regarded, it is a realism of sensibility, not quite a common mimetism of existence, but a subjective transcription of experience. Emily Brontë(1818-1848) dramatizes in Wuthering Heights what Freud calls the id (hidden, most obscure part of the human personality), embodied in her main characters, in Heathcliff and to a certain degree in Catherine, as “the secret well-spring of vitality”. It is a novel based on an opposition between, on the one hand, the elemental and on the other hand, the socially tamed nature. We could recognise here a Victorian opposition between Carlylean vitalism with its emotional excesses and utilitarianism with its moderation. The novel has a romantic tinge, mixing reality (Victorian authenticity) with an archetypal/elemental nature that reaches into the fabulous realms of imagination. The presence of the two narrators is a device used for the integration of a mythical story into a realistic environment. Victorian witers are conventionally divided as the first and the second generation of novelists, according to the main features relevant to their works. The first generation is represented by W.M.Thackeray, Ch. Dickens, Elisabeth Gaskell, Anthony Trollope, the Brontë sisters and George Eliot. These writers were confident in progress and the moral improvement of the individual. The second generation, represented by Samuel Butler, George Meredith, the dish
Thomas Hardy, turned against Victorian orthodoxy as pessimism and satire appeared in their fiction. They marked the transition to modernism, being influenced by European literature and philosophy. Therefore, realism marked the need of cultivating truth in art, be it social, economic or individual and of a minute documentation undertaken by the writer seen as a man of science. George Eliot discussed in one of her Essays the nature of truth as a key concept. Henry Lewes, an influential critic of the age, also believed that “realism is the basis of all Art, and its antithesis is not Idealism, but Falsism”. W.M. Thackeray wrote parodies and burlesques of romantic historical novels, assessing in his introduction to Pendennis:“ I ask you to believe that this person writing strives to tell the truth. If there is not that, there is nothing”.Thus the province of the novel was extended to include the ordinary, the humble, the lower classes. The genre gained a more elevated status, becoming a debate on the urgent matters of the day. In Oliver Twist, Dickens professed that he adopted this principle in the name of the truth (although Northrop Frye believes that Dickens’s novels – undeniably stamped by realism – are nevertheless “fairy tales in the low-mimetic displacement”). Publication of novels in monthly installments enabled the poor to purchase their novels. The part-issue form of publication and the periodical novel increased the role of suspense as the solution to the previous crisis was expected. This manner of publication created a close connection between reader-author. However, writing in installments might have proved damaging to the unity of the novel serialization. But Realism appears to the 20th century critic as a mere convention according to which the novel strives to constitute an authentic report of human experience. Does a realist text proper actually exist? The novel is obviously an artefact and there cannot be an absolute objectivity. However, for the Victorians, realism implied the relationship reality-fiction, not that between teller and his tale. The audience had a complete trust in the narrator, sharing the same values. Realists took nevertheless many elements from romance, such as Dickens’s romantic treatment of characters within realistic settings (used in many of his bestsellers) or the Brontës’ use of Gothicism. Northrop Frye’s “Anatomy of Criticism” may be used for analysing Victorian fiction, as its first essay structures literature typologically into modes: 1- the divine, mythical mode: gods, since the author had to cope with the demands of
2- the mode of romance, centered on demigods, heroes in extraordinary circumstances 3- the high mimetic mode- human heroes endowed with exceptional features, functioning in natural circumstances, 4- the low-mimetic mode, characters whose status is of ordinary human beings in recognisable social environments, 5- the ironic mode, man looked down from a satirical perspective. In Frye’s opinion, Victorian literature combines the low-mimetic mode of realism proper with some traces of high-mimetic, romance or the serious, ironic mode perspective. What the structuralist critic Hillis Miller identifies as the original point for the Victorian character, his painful separation/alienation of the community in order to become re-integrated at the end of the novel corresponds to Frye’s characterization of low-mimetic literature as a a sort of comedy in which the new order is triumphantly installed at the end. The predictable narrative plots have been read by N.Frye as archetypal manifestations of romance analysed as the mythos of summer in his third essay. A “quest myth” is central to romance, following the sequence of the agon, the pathos and the recognition/anagnorisis. In romance, situations are often symbolic, exemplary or representative from a general or typological point of view. Characters are fairy-tale like, demons, dragons, angels. The Victorian novel oscillates between comic forms at the beginning of the age (Dickens, Thackeray), forms belonging to the tradition of the high-mimetic (George Eliot), or mythically ironical (Thomas Hardy). Nevertheless it may be hard to draw a line between the novel proper (the realistic mode) and the romance (fanciful fiction). Richard Chase shows in his study The American Novel and its Tradition that American fiction of the same age has defined itself by
incorporating an element of romance. This tradition,”inevitably springing from England” has a native quality that tends to differ from the English tradition “by its perpetual reassessment and reconstitution of romance within the novel form”. In order to estimate the distinctly American quality of the literature produced in the United States in the nineteenth century, one should take into account the relation in which it stands to the British tradition. In the first half of the nineteenth century, America, an independent political state since 1776, was increasingly gaining ground for the full assertion of a national cultural consciousness. American culture reached this point at a time when the Romantic movement still dominated Europe. In R.Spiller’s words, “the even more ardent nationalism that Romanticism assumed” came to the United States at the moment of an awakening national consciousness. However, American literature has its roots in the English
tradition. Spenser, Bunyan, Shakespeare, Donne, Milton, Pope have all been assimilated by American literature. The Pilgrim’s Progress should be viewed as a “determining link” between English and American literature. The intellectual pattern of New England included, alongside Puritanism, reform movements such as Abolitionism and Transcendentalism (a philosophic movement started by Emerson which implied a strong belief in individual self-reliance, initiating a revolt against the Puritan inheritance). Inspired by English Romanticism and German idealism, it acknowledged God’s benevolence as the sole characteristic of the Supreme Being, laying emphasis on the importance of the freshness of perception opposed to cultivation of the past . As for the writers of the period, they were drawn to romance rather than the novel proper. This narrative tradition appeared to be better suited for the type of investigation that preoccupied them and also to the interest which they took in the self. It is the solitary individual that stands at the centre of such writings as The Scarlet Letter or Moby Dick. By compelling the indidual to take the course of self-scrutiny, American fiction evolved as an investigation of metaphysical, psychological and moral nature as against the analysis of manners and morals that informs an important tradition of the English novel (but this distiction is not so sharp if we take into consideration Wuthering Heights, considered as an example of pure romance within the English novel). The typical American form signifies an assumed freedom from the ordinary novelistic requirements of verisimilitude, development and continuity, a tendency towards melodrama and idyll, a tendency to plunge into the underside of consciousness. However, the best American novelists, among whom Hawthorne and Melville hold a prominent place, have found uses for romance far beyond the fantasy and sentimentality often associated with it. They have used it to introduce into the novel the introspection of
Puritanism as well as the imaginative freedom of Transcendentalism. In their opinion, the power of romance lies in the ability to express dark and complex truths unavailable to realism. As R.Chase also stated, the “history of the American novel is not only the history of the rise of realism, but also of the repeated rediscovery of the uses of romance”. This
tradition is major in the history of the American novel, but minor in the history of the English novel. If the classic English novel is preoccupied with “the illusion of life” and “solidity of specification”, “the continuity of events and the characters’ sense of events”, to use Henry
James’s terms, the Americans have a marked preference for symbolism. It allows them to formulate moral truths of universal validity.
Homework 1.Why is Victorian fiction considered to be a blend of realism and romance? 2.What is the relationship author-reader and its impact on the fictional narrative in the Victorian age? 3. American literature and its relation to the British tradition.
5. Uses of realism in the classical Victorian novel: Charles Dickens
The course outlines the way Ch. Dickens employs the mode of social realism, starting from concrete social elements and his use of narrative strategies (point of view, language, character). It discusses the rhetorical devices (suspense, humour, pathos, artificial motivations, melodramatic effects, identifying phrases), his archetypal, mythical, allegorical imagery, as well as his appeal to fantasy, fairy-tale characters, in a mixture between realism and romance.
Charles Dickens was born on February 7, 1812 in Portsmouth. He spent the first 11 or 12 years of his childhood in Portsmouth which remained a pastoral setting later evoked in his novels. The influence on his writing of his unhappy childhood experiences can be seen in the fate of his many lost, abandoned and orphaned children (Oliver Twist is a child brought up in a workhouse, David Copperfield is abandoned by his family in a hostile world, Cissy Jupe is placed into the hands of hard, mercantile persons), in his lifelong interest in prisons and imprisonment. The experience can be seen in his mature work as an indictment of a society that is parentless, usurped by greed for money, social position and power in its many forms. Later on, he became acquainted with the legal system of England, which he denounced in some of his novels. His occupation as journalist developed the inclination to render with minute details the speech of people, their physical appearance. His first novel, Pickwick Papers, was devised as a series of comic misadventures of a group of middle class gentlemen, making use
of the device of the club meant to provide a link among the desultory incidents presented in instalments. It was followed by a series of novels in which comedy often existed side by side with biting social criticism: Oliver Twist (1837-39), Nicholas Nickleby (1838-39), The Old Curiosity Shop (1840-41) and Martin Chuzzlewit (1843-44). Dombey and Son (1846-48) was followed by his famous David Copperfied (1849-50) which presents a disguised account of his early upbringing. Bleak House (1852-53), the first of what have been called the dark novels of his mature period is a complex vision of society, formally distinguished by the device of having two narrative voices, the first person Esther
Summerson, and a third person narrator who conveys the panoramic vision of the judicial system which Esther can only glimpse partially. Hard Times (1854) is Dickens’s shortest novel, and the only one set wholly outside London; its setting in the industrial north was the vehicle for his attack on utilitarian abuses in the schoolroom as much as the factory. He also wrote one of his most admired works, Great Expectations (1860-61), combining an unusual degree of psychological realism with a complex vision of society. Dickens enjoyed a wide popularity as a spokesman of his age, a social critic as well as an inventor of comic characters and plots. His powerful imagination is fascinated by details of social observation on which he builds chapters, characters. As documents, his writings point to specific institutions and realities of nineteenth century England: child labour, workhouses, the Courts of Law, schools, the debtors’ prison. His comic inventiveness has created an enormous variety of caricatures, of eccentric and highly coloured characters. They seem intenser than human beings, being associated with symbolic art and the literature of the absurd. According to N. Frye, the structure that Dickens uses for his novels ”is the New Comedy structure, the main action being a collision of two societies which we may call for convenience the obstructing and the congenial society”. Actually he fuses the myths of spring/comedy and summer/romance with characters that may belong to the high-mimetic on the background of Victorian low-mimetic fiction. Exploring the mode of social realism, his observations start from obvious themes which are recreated as new entities or defamiliarized, as the Russian formalist critics would call them. Such is the case, for instance of his fictional emblems called Mr.Podsnap in Our Mutual Friend, Uriah Heep in David Copperfield, Mr. Gradgrind in Hard Time, the Deportment in Bleak House (humans turned into machines, the bleak shadow of social power defended by the forces of a rotten state as typified by the legal institution).
these characters have been called by E.M. Forster „flat characters”, „types or the author succeeds
caricatures, as they are constructed round a single idea or quality”, yet
”to achieve effects that are not mechanical and a vision of humanity that is not shallow”. Dickens’s characters begin by being a cast of stock characters engaged in conflicts, such as orphans/heroes, villans, upstarts and hypocrites/alazons, social types that are further on turned into highly symbolic emblems compelling the imagination, rich with significance. These changes are operated by symbolic transformations which add imaginative associations as well as often dramatic, comic ones. We may remark that Dickens’s reputation rests upon fantastic fertility in character creation, the depiction of childhood and youth (David Copperfield and Pip are unmatched elsewhere in British fiction), robust comic creation (in the tradition of Swift, Fielding, Smollett, Laurence Sterne, Richard Sheridan; he usually relies on rhetorical devices such as the effects of suspense, sympathy, pathos, the character’s behaviour, gestures, language, identifying phrases), unconscious artistry in his archetypal, mythical symbols, deeply
ingrained in the psyche, that grip the reader’s imagination and appeal to his fantasy (pointing to Dickens’s allegiance to romantic devices). The elements of concrete social realities acquire the significance of nightmarish forces, haunting the mind. Chesterton seems to have sensed this quality of Dickens’s art: ”Dickens uses reality while aiming at an effect of romance; whereas Thackeray used the loose language and ordinary approaches of romance, while aiming at an effect of reality”. Many of his main heroes are children, virtuous and rather flat as they do not experience inner conflicts. Melodramatic effects are usually achieved by means of the child-herot and this brings them close to moralities and allegories. To achieve that, he resorts to coincidences, sensational elements, artificial motivations, final discoveries that explains the puzzling situations. The moral has definite educational purposes and provides poetic justice. With Dickens, the evil is not the given essence of the world, but only an aspect of it which might be removed, replaced by a positive system of values. The moral has definite educational purposes and provides poetic justice. Thus, in building up his characters, the novelist reduces them to their main features but also grants them a symbolic value. With Dickens, the evil is not the given essence of the world, but only an aspect of it which might be removed, replaced by a positive system of values.
In Great Expectations, both Pip and Estella are orphans that initially belong to different social and psychological categories. Pip is the village orphan, helped by a series of lower-class, virtuous benefactors: his uncle Joe Gargery, the blacksmith, Abel Magwitch, the convict, Herbert Pocket, his impoverished urban friend. Estella, on the other hand has been educated by her benefactress – a vengeful aristocrate, Miss Havisham. The mysterious construction of the plot makes Pip assume that she is his unnamed benefactor who through lawyer Jaggers provides money to send him to London to become a gentleman. This deceptive benefaction affects Pip’s outward and inward progress in life and then Estella’s. Miss Havisham will eventually admit her own villany not only in respect to Pip but also in respect to Estella, whom she has spiritually maimed. She hypocritically uses her wealth and social status to harm both Pip and Estella, while playing the role of
benefactress. At first, Pip is turned into an urban snob addressed by Joe as Mr. Pip. His pretenses of gentility, his „great expectations” make him intolerable, but his whole appearance of gentility is a sham built upon the generosity of the coarse criminal Magwitch. Magwitch, whose other name is Abel, is the only real social benefactor and at the same time social victim (not Miss Havisham, a marriage-victim, abandoned by Compeyson). There is a connection between Pip, the helpless orphan and Magwitch, the convict, as both are socially weak human beings. Pip’s great expectations of becoming „a gentleman” are critically retold by old, maturer Pip, the novel being a sort of penance for earlier subservience to false values. Pip’s gentility appears as parasitism, the work condemning the leisure-class ideal of
contemporary society. Dickens achieves here a memorable success in depicting growth, spiritual transformation and ripening of his central character.
David Copperfield, semi-autobiograhical, is one of the best-loved novels in English and Dickens’s favourite among his works. It traces the development of David from childhood through his widowed mother’s re-marriage to Mr. Murdstone. School – Mr. Creakle’s establishment, like that of Dr.Blimber in Dombey and Son forms part of Dickens’s attack on unimaginative methods of education. The author traces the character’s progress, following his brief employment and toil at his step-father’s business, relieved only by the amiable but improvident Micawber family (prototypes of his own parents), salvation at the practical hands of his aunt Betsey Trotwood. Age and experiece have certainly given his aunt a wisdom and feistiness which combine to make her one of the stongest, most independent-minded of all
Dickens’s fictional characters. Lodging with the Wickfields, he is attracted by Agnes Wickfield and repelled by Uriah Heep, the obsequious clerk. Shadowing this evolution is a less developed but more autobiographical trajectory as David works first as a recorder of parliamentary business and then as an increasingly succesful novelist. The sense of consciousness of time in Copperfield is private, subjective, lyrical, focussed in the
the narrator as he sets down „the written memory” of his life. The long
rhythm of his memory makes possible the shift from picaresque to bildungsroman in this novel. The picaresque plot of fortune is still there in the story of an orphan boy who makes his way through the world, but this progess is enriched by the complex process of memory. David survives early hardships, but others don’t. There is the death of his mother at the hands of the Murdstones, the destruction of the Yarmouth home of Peggotty and Litle Em’ly by Steerforth, the crippled lives of Rosa Dartle and Steerforth’s mother, the death of Dora. Memory unifies the tone of the novel, while its structure owes much to Dickens’s exploitation of the serial form that links together a large cast of characters in relationship to the central subject, that of „growing up”, in a hauntingly poetic creation. Hard Times eschews a vast canvas in favour of a relatively small number of characters. Thomas Gradgrind, Member of Parliament for Coketown – a city in a perpetual shroud of industrial smoke, resounding constantly with the unceasing rhythm of factories, has brought up his children as to believe and acknowledge only facts and profit. The novel is an attack against intransigent Utilitarianism; their philosophy means worship of facts that are to suppress imagination, emotion, humanity. Very few of Dickens’s characters are simply humorous creations or eccentrics, as they carry the weight of their symbolic meaning which dramatically informs his fiction.
Homework 1. Read Ch. Dickens’s Great Expectations and explain why it has a fairy-tale quality/ Can Pip be considered a Victorian picaro? Great Expectations as a Bildungsroman. 2. Coincidence and accident in Dickens’s fiction. 3. Narrative strategies in Dickens’s fiction.
7. Versions of Victorian realism in George Eliot’s fiction: the philosophical and intellectual novel
G.Eliot’s fictional method reflects the characteristics of realism as defined by the author herself: the inclusion of random details of everyday life, “the modest virtues and vices of the humble folk”, “a religion of truth”, a concern with obscure, unheroic people, placed in a deterministic environment. The low-mimetic lowers the high-mimetic and the romance (confrontation between good and evil) modes, weakening them in the service of realistic purposes. Much of her intellectual background is carried into her fiction, focussing on one’s capacity to sympathize with individual suffering.
As a Victorian emancipated and lucid intellectual, George Eliot began by writing for the Westminster Review and in this capacity she became acquainted to the philosopher Herbert Spencer and to the writer, publisher and dramatic critic George Henry Lewes. In the same year she translated Feuerbach's Essence of Christianity, the only one of her writings to which she attached her real name (for Fuerbach, God was an ideal substitute for the real world). In 1846, George Eliot engaged in her first literary work, the completion of a translation begun by Mrs. Hennell of David Strauss's Life of Jesus, a representative work for the “higher criticism” of the Bible (investigation that points to the role of imagination and myth in the creation of religious thought). It was not until 1857 that The Sad Fortunes of the Rev. Amos Barton appeared in Blackwood's Magazine. It was followed by Mr. Gilfil's Love Story and Janet's Repentance, all three being reprinted as Scenes from Clerical Life; Adam Bede was published in 1859, The Mill on the Floss, in its earlier chapters largely autobiographical, in 1860, Silas Marner, in 1861. These novels showed another side of her creative concern, the nostalgic desire to present the regional life of the countryside, to recover the past and cultivate the religion of the heart, of feelings and human compassion. Romola, a historical tale of the times of Savonarola (15th century) appeared in 1863 in the Cornhill Magazine, followed by Felix Holt the Radical, a political novel set in 1830s. Middlemarch, a Study of Provincial Life, which appeared in parts in 1871-72, was by many considered to be one of her greatest works. Daniel Deronda, which
came out in 1874-76 was her last novel. George Eliot will probably always retain a high place among writers of fiction. Much of her intellectual background is carried into her fiction, replacing the belief in supernatural forces by humanism and one’s capacity to sympathize with individual suffering. There are also feminist ideas in her novels, implied in the condition of her heroines. Her great power lies in the minute painting of character, chiefly among the lower middle classes, tradesmen, country folk of the Midlands and her descriptions of rural scenes that have a singular charm. Chapter XVII from Adam Bede presents her artistic creed under the form of an imaginary conversation with “a genteel reader who yearns about heroic deeds”. The author states her desire to present average people and their anonymous dramas, to analyse human nature in its complexity: “Let us love that other beauty too, which lies in no secret of proportion, but in the secret of deep human sympathy. Paint us an angel, if you can, with a floating violet robe, and a face paled by the celestial light…but do not impose on us any aesthetic rules which shall banish from the region of Art those old women scraping carrots with their work-worn hands, those heavy clowns taking holiday in a dingy pot-house, those rounded backs and stupid weather-beaten faces that have bent over the spade and done the rough work of the world – those homes with their tin pans, their brown pitchers, their rough curs and their clusters of onions. In this world there are so many of these common, coarse people, who have no picturesque sentimental wretchedness! It is so needful we should
remember their existence, else we may happen to leave them quite out of our religion and philosophy, and frame lofty theories which only fit a world of extremes. Therefore let Art always remind us of them; therefore let us always have men ready to give the loving pains of life to the faithful representing of commonplace things – men who see beauty in these commonplace things, and delight in showing how kindly the light of heaven falls on them” Critics have shown George Eliot’s sympathy for the rare quality of truthfulness to be found in Dutch paintings, her interest in an almost photographic accuracy, her examination of subjects for the benefit of truth. Her first volume, Adam Bede, is therefore a pastoral novel, presenting the regional life of the countryside against a background of a somewhat idyllic nature. In her essay on The Natural History of German Life, George Eliot states that the task
of an author concerned with social or political issues is to devote himself to studying the natural history of the social classes, especially of the simple people: tenant-farmers, artisans, peasantry, “the degree in which they are influenced by religious doctrines, the consequences of their position towards development”. She was a proponent of the positivism of the French philosopher Auguste Comte, who believed the older concepts of faith and immortality should be discarded in favour of “a religion of humanity”. From Comte she also adopted the scientific attitude towards social behaviour (he was the founder of sociology as a new science). The world in which her imagination finds itself at its greatest ease is that of the province, typifying the universe of her own childhood. The Mill on the Floss describes the emotional and intellectual evolution over a period of ten years of Maggie Tulliver, whose father possesses a mill near the town of St.Ogg’s. It probes into the life of a brother and sister presented with great sensitiveness. Maggie, a passionate and intelligent nature, reacts against the patterns of provincial life, against the coarse values of the boy. The author relies on the qualities of the omniscient narrator but her method contains oral overtones because the narrator often addresses the implied reader and invites him to take a look at the places and people described in the novel. The story is based on the recollections of the narrator but it is also the outcome of imagination. Through the presentation of two families, the Tullivers and the Dodsons, Eliot investigates middle-class mentality based on decorum and tradition, conventional, unimaginative. Romantic visions, wild, uncontrollable passions, wide perspectives are unknown to these people. The narrator’s references contain ironic tones in their description, as they construct a world of respectable, thrifty but also flat characters. However, Eliot’s interpretation finds special qualities in them, as they conduct themselves with propriety and have “a certain faithfulness to admitted rules and thoroughness of work”. Matthew Arnold’s criticism in Culture and Anarchy may be associated to this analysis, as a protest against the pettiness and emotional narrowness of the English middle class, of their lack of interest in ideals and rigid principles. On the other hand, Eliot admits their rectitude of purpose and honesty. The writer’s concern with unheroic, obscure people is supported by her belief in scientific determinism. Maggie’s drama unfolds against the background of this rigid provincial mentality. A sensitive child with artistic tastes, she has the intellectual resources for which her environment doesn’t provide much encouragement. Her drama is based on the incongruity between her
character and the surroundings. Even her deep love for her brother Tom is thwarted by his inflexibility. Actually, those around ses her as unfit for their patterns. Mrs. Pullet says to Mrs.Tulliver: ”You haven’t seen the end of your trouble wi’ that child, Bessie…; she’s beyond everything for boldness and unthankfulness” and Mr. Wakem characterizes her as being “dangerous and unmanageable”. One may point out that the narrative deconstructs the motif of the expelled or outcast soul, the lonely or unique hero whose knowledge, character and thought transcends its own background. Her life seems to be predetermined by cultural constructs imposed by men. The relationship between Maggie and her cousin Lucy is also an attack on romantic illusion and conventional heroines. Maggie decides to adopt the pattern of self-renunciation in acordance with her own ethical nature and conceptions. Again Matthew Arnold’s criticism may be used as he shows that culture – in contrast to the limited aspirations of provincial mentalities- may offer a larger sense of human possibilities. Maggie and Philip acknowledge the supremacy of spiritual values as they both value poetry, art, music. But, in M.Arnold’s opinion, society needs a balance between these two elements as they are both essential for the development of the spirit. In The Mill on the Floss as well as in Middlemarch, George Eliot subjects the vertical, the ideal to the test of the horizontal conventionality, projecting her high-mimetic protagonists (Maggie, Dorothea, Lydgate) endowed with a potential heroic stature, on the background of the disenchanted low-mimetic plots in which they get intimately involved and trapped by deterministic relationships. The low-mimetic lowers the high-mimetic and the romance (confrontation between good and evil) modes, weakening them in the service of realistic purposes.
Homework 1. Read George Eliot’s Mill on the Floss and expain why it is considered a philosophical and intellectual novel. 2. The utilitarian vs. humanitarian perspective in G.Eliot’s fiction 8. Thomas Hardy: the last Phase of the Victorian Realistic novel Although Hardy creates a fictional universe based on the conventions of Realism, with a documentary precision, addressing contemporary issues, his vision assumes tragic as well as
ironic, poetic undertones. The typical Hardyesque novel seems a labyrinth, trapping characters in a world of determinism, pessimism, religious skepticism. This vision reduces plots to a melodramatic level, the human being allowed only a marginal position. His novels are set in a fictional world that abounds in signs of ill-omen, accidents, unhappy coincidences. His fiction suffers a strange distortion of the mundane world, abunding in powerful archetypal situations (the scapegoat in The Mayor of Casterbridge, the night journey, the dying god, the rebirth theme). After Jude the Obscure’s unfavourable reception, Hardy decided to revert to writing poetry.
Thomas Hardy can be seen as a poet and novelist at the same time. He was born at Dorset, the Wessex of his novels, on June 2, 1840. He became acquainted with Schopenhauer’s work, which had an impact upon his outlook. Before his first great novel, Far from the Madding Crowd (1874), he had published Desperate Remedies (1871), Under the Greenwood Tree (1872) which was a great success. It was followed by the masterpiece The Return of the Native (1878). Next he published The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886), Tess of the
D’Urbervilles, in 1891, Jude the Obscure in 1895. According to his own classification, his novels divide themselves into 1) Novels of character and environment, such as The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886) 2) Romances and fantasies, The Well-Beloved (1892), Two on a Tower (1882) 3) Novels of ingenuity, Desperate Remedies. Hardy challenged Victorian
conventionalism, so his novel Jude the Obscure was received with hostility by the authorities of the day because of its pessimism and the treatment of new subjects. It was a denial of Victorian conformism and respectability. He put an end to novel-writing and began to publish poetry and drama. Hardy’s artistic vision has often been associated to philosophical scepticism, Darwinism as well as to his love for rural Wessex, which gave his novels a local flavour. His works are often set against a background of immemorial traditions and customs with ancient monuments such as Stonehenge, creating an impression of man’s struggle with natural forces, with fate or his own instincts. He showed harmony of view with Huxley, Spencer, Comte, Hume, and defined his ideas as « evolutionary Meliorism », based on the attempt of perfecting life. There is an affinity between his view and Schopenhauer’s concept of the immanent or blind Will. His chief fictional techniques are often described as his use of coincidence, symmetrical
positioning of characterization, archaic and sometimes awkward vocabulary, while his distinctive stylistic signature lies in the picturesque. Man’s struggle and the conflict between instinct and reason take place in a world dominated by omens, unhappy coincidences, accidents. He has been compared to the Greek dramatists. As in the Greek tragedy, Michael Henchard’s downfall (in The Mayor of
Casterbridge) is brought about by a flaw in his nature, although he doesn’t intend or enjoy doing harm. The background suits his nature, suggesting some of his predispositions :
« Man’s character is his personal destiny or daimon ».The novel has a dramatic intensity, a Shakespearian grandeur, especially in the description of the wild Egdon Heath (the same atmosphere will be recreated in ample descrition of the heath scorched by the sun and plunged into darkness in The Return of the Native). Themes of guilt, sin, resposibility and remorse are typical for his fiction. Tess of the D’Urbervilles, a Pure Woman renders the basic themes of Hardy’s work, from concrete physical details to the social, cosmic forces shaping human existence. From the beginning of the novel, the relationship man – collectivity - cosmos is apprehended. Tess’s destiny comes to the reader as an accumulation of omens which are interpreted in terms of folk superstition, myth and dramatized through symbols. Hardy’s village is not idyllic, it is rather the cradle of fatal conflicts, destructive passions. Fate is ascribed the role of a cruel and capricious force that plays with the lives of mortals. There are mythical, irreducible conflicts between man and his fate. Human beings appear to be crushed by a superior force: first of nature, then of society or by the characters’ own errors. Highly poetized descriptions of personified nature take a symbolic, active part in the dramatic unfolding of events (for instance in the last but one episode of the novel, describing “the sacrificial altar” of
Stonehenge, the Celtic temple dedicated to the sun). The novel also has a closely-woven pattern of unfortunate incidents and folk superstitions. Tess’s future tragedy is foreshadowed by an episode early in the book - the death of Prince, the family horse: ”The pointed shaft of the cart had entered the breast of the unhappy Prince like a sword and from the wound his life’s blood was spouting in a stream and falling with a hiss into the road”. Tess immediately put her hand upon the wound “with the only result that she became splashed from face to skirt with the crimson drops”. In this scene we
can almost see Tess’s whole life; the death of the horse is a blow to the precarious economic situation of her family and foretells its gradual degradation. Dorothy van Ghent believes the subject of this novel is mythological as the human opposes “preternatural, inimical powers”. However, there seems to be no ascent and cathartic purification in Hardy’s novels which leave the reader frustrated and having a sense of the injustice perpetrated. There is rather a devastating projection of man’s marginal position in the universe, being crushed by both fate and society. We may therefore consider that Hardy’s novels belong, using Frye’s terminology, to the mythos following that of autumn or tragedy, namely to the mythos of winter, which joins satire and irony. Strong individuals with strong untameable souls are contradicted by strong social forces, the forces of history or human
civilization. According to the definition given by Frye to tragic irony, the mythos of winter reduces tragic situations to mere “comedies of the grotesque”. The primaeval Wessex, Hardy’s region of the mind, is the garden of Eden after the fall. In Jude the Obscure, we are presented with the story of the downfall of a man animated by scholarly ambition, by humanitarian ideals, a man who believes in values of spiritual emancipation but ends up discovering they are hollow and false. Hardy described his work as “a deadly war waged between flesh and spirit”, his attempt being “to point at the tragedy of unfulfilled aims”. The intellectual aspirations of the young Wessex villager Jude Fawley are crushed by his own sensuality, his passion for Arabella Donn, the embodiment of instinctual desires and of his weakness, the inclination to drinking. The play of
circumstances also took its toll. He cannot bear the burden of earlier mistakes and besides, he has too many passions in conflict with one another. He views himself in a larger context, being aware of his social disadvantages and finally goes through a downfall. The novel foreruns 20th century literature through the density of psychic life images, of introspection, of inner torments and the description of a hostile society. The heroic element decreases as the ironic increases. The archetypal orders of existence that Frye revises in his “Anatomy of Criticism”, the third essay, as the divine, the human, the animal, the vegetable, the mineral – they are all present in a distorted manner in Hardy’s fiction. At the divine level, we are offered representations of hell and of the ungodly villains that occupy the godly position: they are called Time, The President of the Immortals, Little Father Time (in Jude the Obscure, he strikes an ominous note by killing Sue and Jude’s
children and himself). At the human level, the characters are engaged in a relation of annihilation, trapped. Marriage appears as a destructive machine in most of Hardy’s novels and short-stories (e.g. Life’s Little Ironies), as a social institution ruined by conditions in contemporary British society. But all institutions cooperate in Hardy’s fiction for the destruction of man: the institution of learning in Jude the Obcure (a parody of Oxford
university, fictionally called The University of Christminster, where Jude aspired to study in order to become a bishop or a scholar), the Christian earthly church in Jude and Tess, the professions in The Mayor of Casterbridge, the city versus the countryside. The vegetable world is more often than not symbolic of modern hells as in The Return of the Native or Tess. The city offers the embodiment of a fortress that hides villains, such as Alec D’Urbervilles, “the city” (the French “ville”) being set in opposition to the “field” in Alec and Tess’s names, respectively. Plot contrives against the character, giving it an archetypal value (in Frye’s terms). The characters are destroyed by their natures as well: Tess’s wild, passionate heritage, Jude Fawley’s vulnerability, his tragic flaws, Michael Henchard’s former mistake (of having sold, in a fit, his wife and children to a sailor - his morally improved character after the incident as well as his temperance and virtue didn’t mean the end of his sufferings and eventually he ended up alone and alienated). There is no doubt that Hardy’s reliance on the workings of chance and cosmic irony dealt a blow at Victorian complacency. Unlike Thackeray or George Eliot, who were
committed to a ”normal” world and avoided extremes of social behaviour, Hardy’s novels introduced the tormented hero, later re-discovered by authors such as J.Conrad,
Homework 1. Read Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles and comment on the impact of nature. 2. The archetypal/mythic/cosmic dimension of Hardy’s fiction. rural
fiction: the dark voyage. Nathaniel Hawthorne –
Herman Melville. The symbolical/mythical fiction
This course introduces two American 19th century writers whose main works are structured on the model of the romance. However, it also witnesses its transformation into a symbolic as well as psychological study of characters or into a hybrid - epic romance with poetical/melodramatic overtones. It focusses on two literary texts -The Scarlet Letter and Moby Dick- that have acquired different interpretations by means of the multiple choice perspective.
rejected many aspects of his Puritan inheritance, especially its
dogmatic Calvinism and intolerance. But he retained the Puritan consciousness of the problem of evil and the nature of sin, and in his fiction he saw man darkly. The young Hawthorne grew in company of books, chiefly those of Scott, Bunyan, Spenser. What he wrote, however, became his first volume of stories, Twice-Told Tales (1837). His solitary years enabled Hawthorne to learn the essentials of his craft—how to shape a style and how to create an image of man. During later years he published the works which secured his literary reputation: a second volume of tales, Mosses from an 01d Manse (1846), his greatest novel, The Scarlet Letter (1850) as well as two other novels, The House of Seven Gables (1851), and The Blithedale Romance (1852). He never denied the latent nobility of man. But he understood him too well—both his past and his present—to accept the overly generous notion of the transcendentalist. Emerson’s “perpetual smile” irritated him; Hawthorne believed that Emerson “ought to wait for something to smile at.” Yet both men were cordial neighbors and, within the limits of their polarity, admired one another. More significantly, both represented their time—one its light, the other its darkness. The characters in his tales and romances are in effect symbolic (or allegorical) Adams and Eves thrust into archetypal_ struggles between good and evil, reason and emotion, pride and humility, man and nature. Often they attain the threshold of salvation, rarely are they saved. Except for those like Ethan Brand, Rappacini, Hollingworth and Chillingworth guilty of “want of love and reverence for the human soul” (Hawthorne’s “unpardonable sin”), the fallen remain only obscurely conscious of why they have failed. This ambiguity suggests the mystery of Hawthorne’s power as a writer of deep psychological insight. Evading the platitude of moral statement with its apparent but unreal finality, Hawthorne encourages the possibility of continued analysis and interpretation.
The emphasis that is being laid
Hawthorne’s critical views is likely to
recommend him as a critical authority as well, concerned with the nature of fiction. He defines the status and claims a place equal to that of the novel for his type of fiction, described as romance. A romancer « has a licence with regard to every-day probabillity » typical of the novel, « in view of the improved effects which he is bound to produce thereby » (preface to Blithedale Romance). His argument is the reverse of that followed by George Eliot at the close of the same century which saw the publication of Adam Bede as well as of Hawthorne’s romances (Scarlet Letter, The House of Seven Gables, The Marble Faun, Blithedale Romance) His famous prefaces to these works appear as a counterpart to G. Eliot’s texts about British realism. After pleading for the romancer’s right to disregard the laws of the novel, he continues adding that « In writing a romance, a man is always or ought to be carrering on the utmost verge of a precipitous absurdity, and the skill lies in coming as close as possible without actually tumbling over ». He understands the claims of this fiction as an attempt to balance both Imagination and Reality : « It is a neutral territory, somewhere between the real world and the fairy land, where the Actual and the Imaginary may meet, and each imbue itself with the nature of the other ». The favourite locations of the neutral territory are either the legendary mist of the past or a country such as Italy which has a long tradition and history behind it; the passage of time may also provide the writer with a perspective. The historical period to which he often resorted in his romances and tales was that of the colonial past of New England. According to Henry James’s analysis, Puritanism and its moral percepts were for him « only a point of view to be further explored », used for « an artistic and literary purpose ». Nevertheless, the exploration of the nature of evil, sin and guilt lies at the core of Hawthorne’s writings. The world that the writer seeks and builds is generated by contemplation of the
symbol. The Puritan way of interpreting reality is allegory, in which anything may stand for something else. The Puritans believed that every occurrence was a sign to be translated. But the meaning of the allegory is fixed, there is only one correct translation. Although the allegorical mode was deeply engrained in him by his inheritance and readings, Hawthorne used allegory in the service of scepticism and search and in the process transformed it into a symbolic method. The characters appear as representatives, picturesquely imagined, of a moral type or as phantasms, not endowed with the reality of life, pictures rather than persons.
The Scarlet Letter is built upon the symbolism of the letter A which stands in close connection to all the four characters : Hester Prynne, Arthur Dimmesdale, Roger Chillingworth and Pearl. At a first reading, the theme of the romance seems to be sin, its consequences and retribution. But the American imagination seems less interested in the problems of good and evil than in the dramatization of the inner conflicts, of the tension implied. Sin (in this case, adultery) appears as a source of deepened understanding and development, as an
initiation into moral awareness through evil. Probing deeper into the nature of sin, Hawthorne discloses a complexity which resists any attempt at a rigorous demarcation. The complete isolation to which the scarlet letter condemns her, made Hester more perceptive of the suffering of others, of the predicament of the human condition. Her life after the fall illustrates moral growth, as Hester is not overwhelmed by it. Pearl, as Hawthorne reierates many times, is the embodiment of the letter both physically and mentally as well as a kind of commentary on it. The initial concept is changed and the image acquires different interpretations : « A » starts to signify Able, Admirable, Angel, Abel, Artist, America, anything else than Adulteress. Hawthorne uses here the device of « multiple choice », presenting a variety of symbolical connotations. Hawthorne’s narrative of the interaction of these different points of views is intended as a drama of ideas, interesting because the points of view represented comprise a kind of symbolic history of the American conscience. « The truth of the heart » pictured by romance acquires also a universal human significance. Before H. Melville kindled his alchemic fires aboard the Pequod (Moby Dick
appeared in 1851), he had served a long apprenticeship as a sailor. His early books—Typee (1846), Omoo (1847), Mardi (1849), and While-Jacket (1850) - recount his adventures
episodically but excitingly. Most of his readers enjoyed these tales chiefly as travel narratives, largely ignoring Melville’s pointed criticism of American civilization for its cruelty aboard naval vessels and its intolerant imposition of western “civilization” upon “noble savages”. His conversations with Hawthorne altered more than the plan of his next book—they affected his entire creative work. “Hawthorne has dropped germinous seeds into my soul,” he wrote. In fact, rather, Hawthorne helped those seeds to burgeon which had long since been planted: Melville’s Calvinist heritage (in Mardi he had already spoken of evil as “the chronic malady of the universe”) and his extensive reading - the Bible (especially Job and
Ecclesiastes, Shakespeare- King Lear above all), the metaphysical poets, and Carlyle’s Sartor Resartus. Melville’s readers have discovered in his work a powerful sense of the tragedy of human experience, and, as well, a profound religiousness and a democratic spirit. The universe he had created, however, was dark, stained with evil. Man also was blemished by his rebelliousness and flawed by his irreverent pride. The opaque symbolism and pessimism of Moby Dick estranged his readers. Melville’s pronouncements on the status of the American writer and the lines along which it was developing at that time, expressed in his review of Hawthorne’s Mosses from an Old Manse (1850) or included in his last novel The Confidence-Man plainly state his opinion. His review of Hawthorne may be read as an expression of his overconfidence in the huge possibilities of the American writer as well as his rejection of the European tradition. He underlines the idea that the development of American literature claims that America’s cultural dependence on England should come to an end. On the other hand, he praises
Hawthorne for his depth of psychological insight, comparing him to Shakespeare. Melville’s experience has left its impress upon his work, structured around the theme of the voyage as an exploratory act. Moby Dick is structured round the journey motif, implying the quest for the white whale. It is prefaced with several pages of “Extracts” about whales from the literature of the world, beginning with quotations from the Bible, namely references to the Book of Job. They express the manifold and mysterious aspects of the whale, immense and formidable, fabulous, real, intelligent, malignant, useful and dangerous to man at the same time. Establishing the legendary character of the whale, it also turns the story of a real whale’s chase into a symbolic one. Ishmael, the narrator of the story, is an Everyman-type who searches the world around him and whose function is to introduce the reader to this mysterious adventure. The book may be called a battle between the mad captain Ahab of the whaler Pequod and the mightiest of whales, the white monster Moby Dick. In a previous encounter, Ahab had been defeated and bears the symbol of his defeat in a false leg; swearing revenge, he sets out towards a second encounter in which he will allow only total victory or total destruction. His obsession draws all his crew into the orbit of his passion, some willingly, some passively, some reluctantly. Other characters are grouped around these three: Ishmael, Ahab, the Whale. The three mates of the Pequod represent three types of human intelligence and capability. The three
harpooners are all primitives: the Indian Tashtego, the Negro Dagoo and
Queequeg. Closer to Ahab are the mysterious Parsee Fedallah and the innocent Negro cabin boy Pip. The rest of the Pequod’s company are a “polyglot crew from all countries and climates”. Starbuck represents in the story conventional Christianity, Queequeg primitive pagan morality, but neither can overcome Ahab’s will; nor can the warnings of passing ships that have encountered the object of his search or the numerous omens present in the narrative. Although saturated in the facts of whaling and an almost encyclopedic account of the whale in all its aspects, Melville made his work into an enquiry of the problem of man confronting his destiny. His captain appears as a titan who defies both God and Nature. Fact becomes symbol and incident acquires universal meaning. Ahab, then, appears as a
Promethean figure, a conception as grand as Milton’s Satan, with both of whom he has affinities. Through him, Melville seems to warn of the consequences of Emersonian selfreliance when carried to its utmost limit. If Ishmael is self, Ahab is anti-self. He turns out to be totally incapable of readjusting his vision: to him, the whale invariably conveys one meaning – the omnipresence of evil. He is the extreme case of the nineteenth century egoist or in its Hawthornesque variant, the Unpardonable Sinner who turns into a slave to will or intellect and abandons his potential for fellow feeling. Ahab denies his crew any identity of their own, considering them to be but instruments of his will, an extension of his own self. To Maurice Friedman, he is “the most thoroughgoing example of the monological man”, he “can hear no other human voice because his own is high lifted”. However, despite his gigantic and Romantic stature resting entirely upon his will, Ahab seems to be lacking in a true Promethean dimension. But how are we to take Moby Dick ? For Starbuck, he is a mere dumb brute. Ahab’s obsessive hatred seems to him blasphemous and mad. Moby Dick exploits myth in order to load the whale with all the attributes of mystery and power. Indeed, the ambiguity of
everything in the novel is insisted upon throughout the novel. Ishmael’s symbolic vision enables him to ask questions of ontological and epistemological relevancy; and although he is tempted to give tentative answers, it is the questioning rather than the attempt to reach a definite conclusion that make his exploration meaningful. Ishmael’s relation to it is defined by the great flexibility of his point of view. In chapter 42, “The Whiteness of the whale”, the
narrator says that “it was the whiteness of the whale that above all things appalled me”. As R. Chase puts it, “ the meaning of whiteness, the paradoxical colour” involves all the contradictions that Melville attributes to nature”. Through Ishmael, Melville asserts the otherness, the inscrutability of nature in relation to man. Speculating on what the whale means for Ahab, Ishmael believes that the
meaning(s) of the whale is but an outward projection of a subjective consciousness. It is commonly assumed that several influences were at work upon Melville in 1850 when he was writing the book. Thomas Carlyle’s “Sartor Resartus”, “On Heroes”, ”German Romance” helped determine the symbolic structure (as his device of “multiple choice” proves it). In several respects, the account might fit the pattern of an epic romance - the journey motif which reaches its climax in the attempt to kill the Leviathan is certainly remindful of the mode of romance as described by Northrop Frye. Time in Moby Dick, comprising the months from Christmas (winter solstice) to summer solstice during which the journey is consumed, fits the time scheme in romance. But it can not be considered a romance proper. N. Frye considers it a blend of romance and anatomy. The form that it finally takes fits no clear classification; it is a hybrid – it may be considered a symbolist poem, containing melodramatic if not fully tragic elements – while the particulars of whaling give it “a solidity of specification”. The saga of the white whale essentially deals with a philosophic problem: it is the search for a true explanation of man’s relationship with God in the universe and the white whale is the very embodiment of the ultimate mystery.
Homework 1.Read Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter and analyse the multiple levels of significance
suggested by the letter A. Why is it called a romance? 2. Which are the mythological, cetological, economical connotations in Moby Dick? 3. The initiation journey in Moby Dick. The Mythic dimension of Melville’s fiction. 4. How does the multiple perspective device function in Melville’s/Hawthorne’ swork?
Posibile teme pentru examen: 1. The use of digression in Tristram Shandy.
2. Sentimentalism and melodrama in Dickens’s novels. 3. The significance of Fate in Hardy’s novels. 4. Comedy and satire in two Victorian novels 5. The feminist perspective in George Eliot’s/Hardy’s novels. 6. Fielding’s Tom Jones : the picaresque/satirical novel 7. Narrative frames/ Temporal patterns in the 18th c. novel 8. Fiction as meta-fiction in the 18th/19thc. 9. City versus countryside in G.Eliot’s, Hardy’s, Dickens’s fiction. 10. The multiple perspective device in Hawthorne’s/ Melville’s fiction 11. The concept of self-reliance in Melville’s fiction
Model test 1 (Grile) 1. Which of the following novels are Bildungsromans? a) Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe b) Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy c) Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels d) Fielding’s Tom Jones R. a), d) 2. Why does Robinson leave home ? a) Because he wants to discover America. b) Because his family had arranged a marriage for him with Clarissa c) Because his father had destined him to a profession he didn’t like d) By accident e) Because of the rivalry between him and his older brother.
R c) 3. Which of the following European authors are considered to have influenced the development of the English novel in the 18th century? a) Thomas Mann, Andre Gide, Marcel Proust. b) Cervantes, Rabelais, Lesage. c) Cicero, Homer, Virgil. d) Joyce, T.S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf. e) Th. Hardy, Dickens, Thackeray. R b) 4. His work comments on the political realities of the day, and offers many-layered readings. Under the disguise of authentic travel narratives his book offer a subtle critique of British politics, while at the same time being enjoyed by children, as well as by sophisticated readers
because of their particular narrative structure, it was enjoyed both by children and sophisticated readers. Which of the following authors fits this description? a) Laurence Sterne b) Jonathan Swift c) Daniel Defoe R b) 5. This novel is considered to be not only a classic travel and adventure story, but also as the prototype of the novel, because of its focus on the daily, external and internal activities of ordinary people, but primarily because of its exploration of both the internal and of the external aspects of his hero, whose personal development occupies a central part in the story. Which of the following books fits this description? a) Gulliver’s Travels b) Robinson Crusoe c) Pamela R b) 6. Which of the following statements about Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe is true? a) It can be read as a metaphor of colonialism, because the relationship between Robinson and Friday is the archetype of colonial relations. b) Robinson lacks the psychological elements that would make him a full-fledged character; he is therefore a persona. c) Defoe’s novel is a complex and multilayered satire directed against the social, religious and political conflicts that were dividing British society at the time. d) In Robinson Crusoe, Defoe constructs a meta-novel, because in it he experiments with the mechanisms of novel-writing, thus revolutionizing the genre. R a) 7. Which of the following novels represents a modern version of an initiation journey at the end of which the hero finds maturity and respectability? a) Gulliver’s Travels b) Robinson Crusoe c) Tom Jones d) Tristram Shandy R. b), c) 8. Which of the following are NOT novels in a strict sense: a) Daniel Defoe’s Moll Flanders b) Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels c) Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe d) Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy. R b) 9. Dickens’s fictional world was characterized by Northrop Frye as ”fairy-tale” in : a) the high-mimetic mode b) the low-mimetic mode
R a) 10. Dickens’s characters are formally described by critics as a) round and complex ones b) flatly-drawn, symbolic R b) 11. David Copperfield is mainly written in : a) the 3rd person point of view b) the 1st person point of view c) the neutral omniscient perspective R b)
12. Which one of Hardy’s characters sold his wife and daughter in a fit of drunkenness at a fair? a) Jude Fawley (Jude the Obscure) b) Michael Henchard (The Mayor of Casterbridge) c) neither of them R b)
13. In Th. Hardy’s novels, the setting is a) Essex R c) 14. What point of view does Hardy use in Tess of the D’Urbervilles: a) omniscient R a) 15. In Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Talbothay’s Farm is a) a drab and desolate place, with exhausted natural resources b) a warm, fertile, rich place R b) 16. In Jude the Obscure, Sue Bridehead embodies a) instinctual drives and passion b) a modern agnostic type of woman, an enlightened spirit R b) 17. In George Eliot’s Mill on the Floss Lucy is presented as a) a subversive manner of attacking romantic illusion b) a dark-haired, intelligent heroine at odds with the provincial mentality around her b) selective omniscient c) subjective b) Sussex c) Wessex
R a) 18. The doctrine of the transcendental movement in American literarure (founders: Emerson, Thoreau, G.Ripley, M.Fuller) was influenced by a) English romanticism and German idealism b) Victorian realism R a) 19. In his critical prefaces, Hawthorne acknowledges to be writing fiction as: a) an objective, faithful representation of reality b) truth under circumstances, truth of the human heart, thus claiming a licence from everyday probability R b) 20. The historical period to which Hawthorne often resorted in his fiction was: a) the medieval legendary age b) his contemporary society c) the colonial, Calvinist past R c) 21. The Pequod sails from the centre of American whaling activity, which is a) Nantucket b) New York R a)
Model test 2 1. Which of the following statements about Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe is true? a) It can be read as a metaphor of colonialism, because the relationship between Robinson and Friday is the archetype of colonial relations. b) Robinson lacks the psychological elements that would make him a full-fledged character; he is therefore a persona. c) Defoe’s novel is a complex and multilayered satire directed against the social, religious and political conflicts that were dividing British society at the time. d) In Robinson Crusoe, Defoe constructs a meta-novel, because in it he experiments with the mechanisms of novel-writing, thus revolutionizing the genre. R: a)
2. Which of the following statements is true? a) The Bildungsroman is a literary genre that started in Germany, and is equivalent to a fictional autobiography. One example is Robinson Crusoe. b) Bildungsroman is a literary genre that started in Germany, and is in fact an adventure novel, a travel narrative. One example is Gulliver’s Travels c) Bildungsroman is a literary genre that started in France, and it ultimately is an extended meditation on story-telling, having as central premise the idea that what the story is about is of secondary importance to how it is told. One example is Tristram Shandy R: a) 3. H.Fielding compares literature to R: b) 4. Tom Jones is described by its author as a) an idle, medieval romance b) dynamic, realistic, comic, epic, heroic, prosaic c) a poem in prose R: b) 5. What do the Yahoos and the Houyhnhnms stand for? a) they represent extremes of theoretical and speculative reasoning, which Swift criticizes because he believes that such excessive interest in science can lead those involved in it to lose touch with reality b) they represent instinct and reason, as two opposite tendencies that naturally live side by side in the human spirit.. c) They represent embodiments of the Whig and Tory parties. They also embody the English attitudes which Swift wishes to criticize and oppose to the ideal of the enlightened monarchy. R: b) 6. Read the following fragment from Robinson Crusoe, and choose among the statements below the one that best describes it. “After he had slumbered, rather than slept, about half-an-hour, he awoke again, and came out of the cave to me: for I had been milking my goats which I had in the enclosure just by: when he espied me he came running to me, laying himself down again upon the ground, with all the possible signs of an humble, thankful disposition, making a great many antic gestures to show it. At last he lays his head flat upon the ground, close to my foot, and sets my other foot upon his head, as he had done before; and after this made all the signs to me of subjection, servitude, and submission imaginable, to let me know how he would serve me so long as he lived. I understood him in many things, and let him know I was very well pleased with him. In a little time I began to speak to him; and teach him to speak to me: and first, I let him know his name should be Friday, which was the day I saved his life: I called him so for the memory of the time. I likewise taught him to say Master; and then let him know that was to be my name: I likewise taught him to say Yes and No and to know the meaning of them.” a) conversational commentaries b) a feast meant to entertain the readers/guests.
a) The fragment describes the way in which Robinson sets out to civilize the island, by recreating on it the comfort and the type of relationships he was accustomed to. b) The fragment describes the moment when he saves Friday from death at the hands of the band of cannibals. c) The fragment describes a crucial moment that establishes the nature of the relationship between Friday and Robinson– that of master and slave. d) The fragment deals with Robinson’s inner tensions between his religious beliefs and the difficult situation he finds himself in, further complicated by the presence of Friday. R: c) 7. Which of the following statements about Laurence Sterne’s novel Tristram Shandy is true? a) It is a novel written in the third person, having an impersonal and omniscient narrator, who knows everything about all his characters. b) it is a meta-novel, because it is an extended meditation on story-telling, having as central premise the idea that what the story is about is of secondary importance to how it is told. c) it is a Bildungsroman, because it follows the story of the development of Tristram as an individual, through the multiple adventures he has, which shape his personality and ultimately help him find his place in society. d) it explores the dramatic situation of women in the eighteenth century, and comments on the double pressure exerted upon them by an oppressive patriarchal society. R: b) 8. Nineteenth century American fiction has a kinship with a) symbolism (traditional allegory included) b) the novel of manners (Jane Austen, J.Fielding, W. Thackeray) R: a)
9. N. Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter was meant as a) a Puritan indictment of sin b) a moral, allegorical probing into the nature of evil and guilt R: b) 10. Moby Dick is generally viewed as a) a novel proper b) an epic romance in a tragic mode c) a melodramatic travelogue R: b) 11.Melville uses Queequeg’s image in order to a) assert the value of pagan morality
b) warn the readers about the dangers of primitiveness R: a) 12. In Fielding’s Tom Jones, what does Sophia discern, when very young, about Master Blifil
A.that he was thoughtless B.that he was prudent C.that he was idle D.that he was sober E.that he was interested only in himself F.that he was everybody’s friend G.that he was interested in everybody’s well-being a. B+D+E b. A+C+D+E c. A+E+G Ans: A 13. Dickens’ fertile, exuberant imagination is mostly remarkable for the creation of:
a. b. c. d. Ans: a
character settings plot structures plot endings
14. In Dickens’ fiction most characters are conceived:
a. allegorically, reduced to ideas, concepts of human nature. b. mimetically, in abundant varieties of human likeness. c. both allegorically and mimetically. d. neither allegorically nor mimetically. Ans: c 15. In Great Expectations, Pip learns from Magwitch, Joe and Biddy that: a. feeling and conscience cannot shape him as a gentleman b. social and educational improvement are irrelevant if moral worth is not heeded Ans: b 16. In Hardy’s major novels, plots a. derive from characters, authenticate them. b. derive from characters and teem with fateful incidents. c.are autonomous from characters’ nature. Ans: b 17. The painful conflict between the old ways of provincial communities and the new order of speculative capitalism underlies:
a. The Mill on the Floss b. The Mayor of Casterbridge c. Great Expectations Ans: b 18. In The Mayor of Casterbridge: a. both Henchard and Lucetta succeed in denying their own past. b. Henchard admits that the past cannot be buried despite one’s will or desire. c. Susan, Newson, the furmity -woman know the secret from Henchard’s past but willingly overlook it. Ans: b 19. Mr. Tulliver is a fragile, meek, easy-going person. a. True Ans: a b. False
20. George Eliot’s early novels – Adam Bede, The Mill on the Floss, are cast in agrarian, preindustrial England. a. True b. False Ans: a 21. In The Mill on the Floss the conflict is generated by: a. the protagonist’s irreparably damaging her relationship with the community by a moment’s free choice. b. the community living by amoral codes. c. the community, as repository of long shared moral values. Ans: a 22. The picaresque plays an important role in George Eliot’s novels a. True Ans: a b. False
23. In Eliot’s novels the idea of ………… is a significant one a. absolute freedom of the individual b. kinship c. the conflict between kinship and the freedom of the individual Ans: c
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