The Novel

BA English

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

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

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

BA and Diploma in English

Correction

033E070 The Novel
December 2008: First correction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At the same time. Roland (1967) Writing Degree Zero. London: University of California Press. the kind of short. 1953) [ISBN 0-691-01269-5 (pbk)]. (London: Cape. but also biographies. (Princeton. (Berkeley. Edited by M. Booth. introduction to many of the key issues and topics. Shlomith (1983) Narrative Fiction: Contemporary Poetics. an Introduction. 0-7185-0120-9 (pbk)]. If all the criticism that you read on. say. and Patrick D. so if you want to find out more about. A fluent study of the ‘tradition’ of self-conscious novelists who question and parody dominant novel-types. with the help of the Handbook and bearing the following in mind. A highly influential and admirably clear study of the ‘rhetoric’ of a wide range of American and European novels.M. Bear this in mind. 1996) second edition [ISBN 0-7185-0119-5 (hbk). Other recommended books Alter. A clear. Robert Partial Magic: The Novel as Self-Conscious Genre. Secondary reading Essential texts Hawthorn. 1984) [ISBN 0-224-02267-9]. Although they are not available for all the novels that you might study. 1975) [ISBN 0-520-02755-8]. Erich Mimesis: the Representation of Reality in Western Literature. 1997) third edition [ISBN 0-340.69220-0 (pbk)]. if basic. (1983) The Rhetoric of Fiction. 4 . Four Essays by M. George Eliot was written in the 1950s you may have a limited idea of the range of critical responses to this writer. Translated by Annette Lavers and Colin Smith. Barthes. etc. authoritative. So the entry ‘Cervantes’. (London: Leicester University Press. Holquist. Mikhail M. (London and New York: Routledge. critical discussions of individual novels offered by a series like the Cambridge ‘Landmarks of World Literature’ will generally provide sufficient information on given texts. say. Michael J. Jeremy Studying the Novel. 1989) [ISBN 0-415-04294-1 (pbk)]. do not assume that criticism from an earlier date is necessarily redundant. (Austin: University of Texas Press. Trask. NJ: Princeton University Press.The Novel authors and topics not listed above or discussed in this subject guide you will need to compile your own reading lists. The Dialogic Imagination. (London and New York: Arnold. (Harmondsworth: Penguin. Rimmon-Kenan. 1982) [ISBN 0-292-71534-X]. The author traces the gradual raising of low-life mimesis to the level of high art and offers a close analysis of passages. Wayne C. Murphy (eds) Essentials of the Theory of Fiction. If you want to pursue your reading further. An excellent introduction to the theory of narratology using a wide range of international texts. 1991) second edition [ISBN 0-14-013736-X (pbk)]. A brief but elegant statement of a post-modernist rejection of realism in France. the bibliographies in such books are a good starting place. should produce lists of Cervantes’ writing. The constraints of time make it impossible for you to read very widely on particular authors. Most libraries have computerised indexing which will cross-reference. critical readings. A very useful collection of essays by some of the major commentators on questions of narrative theory. *Auerbach. You will know from your work on the foundation units that the nature of English studies has changed radically over the last 20 years. Translated by W. *Bakhtin. Bakhtin. for example. Hoffman. Flaubert’s Madame Bovary you should look for a collection of essays or a single book which aims to provide an introductory overview.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Novel Notes 16 .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Novel Notes 26 .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Novel Notes 48 .

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

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

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

The Novel

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

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

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

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Chapter 4: Section B topic study: post-modernism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Novel Notes 58 .

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

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

Notes Notes 61 .

The Novel Notes 62 .

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