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

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

early twentieth-century modernist novels and some post-modern fiction. is a Group B advanced unit.) 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. written in prose. You may want to think about what this list.Introduction Introduction This subject. includes and what it leaves out. European and non-Western traditions. 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. 1 . The novel. When studying the earlier history of the genre. American. the term will be restricted to fictional works. as it exists at a given moment without reference to its past) and diachronically (i. (Self-assessment procedures are discussed in the Handbook. The following list is by no means exhaustive.e. It will focus primarily on works originally written in English but will also consider novels in translation. You are also recommended to study authors from across the British. as it passed through time). the selection of texts will inevitably be more limited to European novels. a ‘canon’ of sorts. it is a selection of important and influential novels you may care to study. of sufficient length to be deemed ‘novels’. The term ‘novel’ has been loosely applied by writers and critics to a broad range of texts but. for the purposes of this subject. 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.and nineteenth-century realist novels. but you are allowed to study and write on earlier material where relevant. Bear in mind that you will want to explore the novel both synchronically (i. 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.e. This subject guide focuses on novels from the eighteenth century to the present. You should try to read at least some of the novels from this list.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Novel Notes 16 .

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

say. Distribution. considerable debate among readers as to the value and significance of her writing. David After Bakhtin: Essays on Fiction and Criticism. * Highly recommended Introduction Although we will be looking principally at two novels. with some necessary modifications. (Chicago and London: Chicago University Press. 1986) [ISBN 0-333-32318-1 (pbk)]. to Austen’s entire canon. Bath. as produces little effect after much labour. 2000) second edition [ISBN 07012664270 (pbk)]. Arrangement. Mass. 1992) [ISBN 0-436-2567-1]. Indeed. there has been. David ‘Composition. Mansfield Park (1814) and Persuasion (1817). nevertheless. Watt. it is true that the novels focus almost exclusively on small communities of gentry in the home counties. (London: Secker and Warburg. 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.: Macmillan. 3 or 4 Families in a Country Village is the very thing to work on. In terms of location. (London and Cambridge. 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.The Novel Lodge. *Poovey. much of the discussion here might be applied. 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. 1984) [ISBN LC83-003664]. with the larger urban world represented minimally by the odd ‘excursion’ to. Tony Jane Austen. Writing to a niece who was herself dabbling with fiction. *Tanner. of course. Studies in Defoe. and Jane Austen. (London and New York: Routledge. Two years later. 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. More disturbing still for many readers is the apparent absence of any explicit or palpable response to the massive social. but also a sense of a radically circumscribed vision too. Spencer. Two of Austen’s best-known comments on fiction might be seen to endorse not only this pejorative view of her range. Portsmouth or a roughly-sketched London. (London: Pimlico. but it is worth considering the negative assessment of Austen a little further. 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. 1990) [ISBN 0-415-05037-5]. Mary The Proper Lady and the Woman Writer: Ideology as Style in the Works of Mary Wollstonecraft. David The Art of Fiction: Illustrated from Classic and Modern Texts. Lodge. Ian (1957) The Rise of The Novel. (Oxford: Basil Blackwell. Such comments can. Jane The Rise of the Woman Novelist: From Aphra Behn to Jane Austen. 18 . political and cultural changes wrought by the Industrial Revolution at home and the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars across the Channel. If Lord David Cecil could claim in 1935 that Austen’s ‘graceful unpretentious philosophy…is as impressive as those of the most majestic novelists’. Form and Structure in Jane Austen’s Novels’ in Lodge. Richardson and Fielding. 1986) [ISBN 0-631-13915-X]. in 1816. be interpreted in a number of ways. Mary Shelley.

there are some dangers in simply ‘placing’ Austen’s novels in relation to. and we have yet more reasons to question Austen’s reputation. Sense and Sensibility. Because we are primarily concerned with Austen the novelist. Nevertheless. you should try to familiarise yourself with some details of the historical contexts that take place ‘around’ Austen’s writing. To what extent is ‘narrowness’ a relative rather than an absolute term. a new Austen has emerged as critics have sought to recover the historical specificity of the novels’ concerns. Add to this the criticisms that the novels endorse a class-obsessed snobbery. of course. However. Before we move on to more particular questions of form.Chapter 1: Section A author study: Jane Austen If we follow the logic of this approach. Because the relationship between ‘history’ and novels is always a complex one. During the early decades of the eighteenth century. it is noteworthy that a shift in the orientation of critical approaches to Austen. the generic boundaries between various kinds of prose fiction and other sorts of writing were by no means concrete or widely agreed. 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. was printed in 1811. and because her central concern is the marriage of her heroines. the French Revolution (1789). which occurred in the 1970s. 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. unsurprisingly. and the ‘war of ideas’ in which her novels engage. but it is important to consider the specifics of the controversy over Austen. the charges are potentially seriously damaging: living in one of the most turbulent periods in British and European history. 19 . that they are politically reactionary and that Austen is an apologist for the male ideology of female subordination. the kinds of answers given in return. the very stuff of literary history. you might think about ways in which Mansfield Park and Persuasion might be described as ‘political’. then it is worth remembering that Austen was writing after a period of at least a hundred years of experiment in prose fiction. has changed both the nature of the questions asked of the novels and. Debates about literary reputations are. If this seems self-evident and redundant to modern readers. That Austen was able to categorise her novel with such confidence is an indication that. 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. say. 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. Austen writes about the passionless love affairs of the gentry. by the beginning of the nineteenth century. 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. 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. Thus. tacit agreements had been reached enabling both readers and writers to understand something reasonably specific by the term ‘novel’. its title page carried the subtitle ‘A Novel’. or the battles of Trafalgar (1805) and Waterloo (1815).

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

Chapter 1: Section A author study: Jane Austen deploying familiar narrative techniques in new ways. You might want to think about implied oppositions like that between innovation and tradition. Austen has Rushworth repeat his buzzwords in a comically absurd way: It wants improvement. as well as explicit ones like the antithesis between propriety and impropriety. Austen. 21 . typically. you may find it useful to consult Bradbrook (1967) and Spencer (1986). however. The latter is particularly helpful because its demonstrates Austen’s inheritance from women writers like Charlotte Lennox and Fanny Burney. In order to gain a sense of Austen’s relation to eighteenth-century novel traditions. It might be argued. 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. that the novel’s greater success is partly a result of its ability to present abstractions in concrete form. Make a list of some key words/concepts that you consider important in Mansfield Park. Chapter VI begins with the narrator setting the scene for a dinner-table discussion at Mansfield Park. 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. beyond anything. 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’. ma’am. and helps us to understand the particular social pressures that helped to shape the tradition of didactic fiction for women. then you might also consult Poovey (1984) and/or Johnson (1988) and Kirkham (1983). 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). Notions of maturity and development in treatments of writers’ careers are not always reliable. To confirm the point. 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. Similarly. make her as skilled a novelist as any in a century that produced the great ‘classics’ of European realism. but Austen seems keen to express much more than Rushworth’s mercenary views here. 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. it is reasonable to view Mansfield Park as technically more accomplished than the novels first drafted a decade earlier (Sense and Sensibility. we are left in little doubt that Rushworth wants to ‘improve’ out of a fidelity to fashion rather than from any more considered impulse. Having prepared the ground with succinct summary. If you are interested in debates about Austen’s feminism. Northanger Abbey and Pride and Prejudice). I never saw a place that wanted so much improvement in my life. since they often presuppose a progression that is by no means a given and impose a false sense of teleology. How central and how intrusive are such oppositions in the novel? Now reread Chapter VI of the first volume. That said. 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.

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

Persuasion has often been placed at the nineteenth. Anne too is ignored and undervalued by those around her for most of the narrative. and. Austen imbues Anne. However. Secondly.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. she needs to show that. Partly because it is her last completed novel. on the one hand. Fanny and Anne really are worthy. many of them ideological. while on the other it charts the painful isolation of Fanny Price. In both novels. however. 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. the heroines are already exemplary insofar as they think of others ahead of self and tend to judge by external. Austen confronts the difficulties of convincing readers that her exemplary heroines are in some sense living and breathing rather than ‘flat’ allegorical figures. a novel like Mansfield Park seeks to affirm traditional Christian values in a way that bespeaks some confidence. stillness and selfabnegation. Fanny’s sense of self-worth is hard won in a milieu that proves sometimes aggressively uncongenial to her values of quietness. Thus. like Fanny. Consider some of the ways in which Persuasion might be seen as a more melancholy and pessimistic novel than Mansfield Park. Firstly. by choosing to present such exemplary and near ideal heroines. is that her one chance of happiness – in the form of marriage to Captain Wentworth – seems to be behind her when the novel begins. Thus. Austen’s novels are consistently preoccupied with the lives of young women whose security and happiness are radically threatened. Catherine Morland. Interestingly. with a moral integrity that is lacking in other characters. in spite of the generally negative assessments of those around them. What makes Anne’s situation particularly painful. 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. Emma Woodhouse and even Elizabeth Bennet learn the dangers of subjectivism in the course of the narratives in which they are central. Marianne Dashwood. 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. Austen is faced with a number of problems. Anne Elliot is that much more isolated than even Fanny Price.rather than eighteenth-century end of the spectrum touched upon above. objective standards rather than subjectively. like Fanny. 23 . 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. For all that they finally adhere to the conventions of comedy. the situation is slightly different in Mansfield Park and Persuasion. then it seems to pervade the autumnal atmosphere of Persuasion. and partly because it does signal some formal and thematic departures from Austen’s previous novels.

said something to the Miss Musgroves. ambivalence that stems from Austen’s chosen techniques. to resolve and close all the questions that a given novel poses. the others appeared. Austen opens up the active and intelligent minds of Fanny and Anne to the gaze of her readers. If Fanny Price and possibly Anne Elliot remain less than fully endearing to modern readers. How. begins and ends with apparently exterior views. We are in no way obliged. said all that was right. that it would soon be over. 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. the paragraph beginning ‘Mary. Her eye half met Captain Wentworth’s. 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. a bow. such closure may do some violence to what some theorists of the novel see as the inherently ‘dialogic’ nature of the novel form. perhaps. Austen affords us privileged insights unavailable to the other characters who inhabit the imagined worlds of the novels. This paragraph. so that once again the narrative is subtly working to win us over to the approved values of the heroine. very much gratified by this attention…’ typifies a peculiarly ‘modern’ subjectivism that pervades the novel. Indeed. of which this was the most consoling. 24 . and Anne might finish her breakfast as she could. More particularly. Austen’s use of narrative voice in the novel is intimately bound up with her broader concerns. but in between moves so close to Anne’s perspective that it might be read as a kind of ‘stream of consciousness’: …a thousand feelings rushed upon Anne. that 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. it is in spite of Austen’s best efforts. In minutes after Charles’s preparation. 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. she heard his voice – he talked to Mary. 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. Furthermore. a curtsey passed. 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). they were in the drawing room.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. of course. Think again about how Austen handles point of view in both novels. By presenting the majority of events from her heroine’s perspectives. Austen succeeds brilliantly here in giving a sense of the rush of emotions and impressions that assail Anne. And it was soon over. For many readers. paying particular attention to the way in which Anne responds to her meeting with Captain Wentworth. Austen is able to move freely between interior and exterior views. and to what effect. for example. 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.

Consider the relationship between any two of Austen’s novels and aspects of either eighteenth. point of view. dialogue. 4. Consider Austen’s handling of the relationship between the individual and society. 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. Learning outcomes By the end of this chapter.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. 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’. Consider the significance of one of the following in Austen’s fiction: place. To what extent.Chapter 1: Section A author study: Jane Austen Nevertheless. 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. for example. irony. 2. How useful is the term ‘realism’ in relation to Austen’s fiction? 3. Sample essay questions 1. and how such ‘realism’ relates to other novels and novelistic traditions. 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. having studied the essential reading and some of the recommended critical texts. 25 . you might pursue your reading of Persuasion further so as to clarify a broader understanding of the novel. and the events around Louisa’s fall in Chapter XII. you might consider how Austen’s fiction relates to novels that appear otherwise quite different.or nineteenth-century fiction.

The Novel Notes 26 .

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

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

Hyppolite Balzac. The chapter concludes with a list of learning outcomes and sample examination questions. The first two sections below provide a contextual discussion of Balzac. published in 17 volumes between 1842 and 1848.Chapter 2: Section A author study: Honoré de Balzac (Eugénie Grandet and Old Goriot) Stowe. They describe the rationale behind the large project of The Human Comedy and Balzac’s place within the nineteenth-century tradition of Realist literature. genre. the relationship between parents and children) narrative voice language. he is writing with the benefit of hindsight. Guildford: Princeton University Press. 1973) [ISBN 0838316700]. (Princeton. (New York: Haskell House. and so you should make sure that you understand some of the important events in late-eighteenth. Declaration of the Rights of Man (27 August 1789). The sections thereafter deal with the separate issues of: • • • • • characterisation (Balzac’s use of contrast. * 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. for instance. Taine. 29 . Civil Constitution of the Clergy (12 July 1790). his work has generated an enormous amount of criticism.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. James and the Realistic Novel. they should represent a comprehensive picture of the social and moral history of France in the early nineteenth century. Background Balzac documented the life of his times in his novels. in Old Goriot. As you might expect of such a prolific author. 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). just after Napoleon’s downfall. the character of Vautrin) sensation. The bibliographies above represent a selection of some of the more accessible secondary material written in English. A Critical Study. 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). 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). mystery and melodrama themes (the opposition between Paris and the provinces. Balzac. whereas Old Goriot is set in 1819–1820. taken together. William W.J.. In Eugénie Grandet we see Balzac as a commentator on contemporary events. Translated by Lorenzo O’Rourke. N. the motif of money. Nationalisation of church property (2 November 1789). 1983) [ISBN 0691065675]. Balzac’s aim was that.

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

yes. In his pursuit of ‘real life’ Balzac researched his novels. The three Scenes were yoked under the general title The Human Comedy in 1841. than the world in which he was actually living. but let’s talk about something more important. They were debating the nature of French provincial society. subdivided into three groups: Scenes of Private Life. by depicting particular types of people. And he claimed that the world he carried round in his head and put down on paper was more real. 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. more interesting. all this is very interesting. In 1842. To what extent does Balzac’s description of things serve as indexes to the inner lives of characters? 31 . 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. This Realism has inspired many French critics and scholars to try to map his fictional worlds against actual French locations. by bringing together the main products of the passions. He went on to say that his aim was ‘to create a world with its own parish registers’. His descriptions of the provinces in the 1820s were often based on real places. 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. ambitious project was to echo Dante’s Divine Comedy (begun about 1307). In the preface to Eugénie Grandet in 1833. In the French editions there is much detailed information in the introductions and notes about which town Balzac is actually referring to. that of manners and customs. He wanted to depict the different facets of French cultural life as realistically as possible. by choosing the principal events of society. 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.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. Eugénie Grandet and Old Goriot were first published as parts of a 12-volume series entitled Studies of Nineteenth-century Manners. ‘Comédie’ in French denotes drama or theatre. How does Balzac set the stage for action in Eugénie Grandet and Old Goriot? Look carefully at the opening paragraphs of the novels. This was part of Balzac’s original scheme. and he sought to describe all areas of social life – urban. when he suddenly interrupted the conversation and said ‘Yes. as indeed some of his characters were based on real people. in his famous preface to The Human Comedy. and the way he juxtaposed life in the capital with life in the provinces was of particular interest to the contemporary reader. Scenes of Provincial Life and Scenes of Parisian Life. Both Eugénie Grandet and Old Goriot appeared as part of Scenes of Private Life. provincial and rural. at the time when he was writing Eugénie Grandet. One of the most famous stories about him concerns Eugénie Grandet – both the novel and the character who gives it its title. by composing types by bringing together features from several different individuals. 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. In 1833. Balzac’s aim for this vast. and the way the author describes interiors and landscapes. I would perhaps manage to write the history that so many historians forget to write. His novels were regarded as compellingly written narratives with strong characters and humour and as social documents.

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

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

Balzac uses character as a lens through which we view the vices and virtues of nineteenth-century French society. who were already rather sickened by his aristocratic manners’ (Chapter 2). hopefully. a gesture. licit and illicit. As well as arranging his characters in ways that invite comparison. Look at Section 4 and study the comparison drawn between Grandet’s betrayal of the regional winegrowers and Charles’s betrayal of Eugénie. the callous indifference of the worthless Charles. His nephew Charles also abuses the woman who loves him – he takes Eugénie’s money and departs. Honoré de Balzac (1979): Hardly a manifestation of the human condition is left unstirred. We catch their expressions as we would in real life. between the Maison Vauquer and Madame de Bauséant’s palace. and he made particular use of character contrast. are given life within the hearts of the characters. is juxtaposed against the devoted and trusting Eugénie. 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. (p. but he also serves as the vehicle for Balzac’s own bitter feelings about French society.The Novel environments in the way described above. but rather than against God. and consider in particular his advice to Rastignac about adopting the same unscrupulous means as society in order to win through. for example. and he uses Eugène de Rastignac in order to triumph and dominate. 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. Only the women show a glimmering of human feelings. the tone of a voice. all desires. a smile or laughter. see the complex nature and comprehensive scope of Balzac’s writing. corrupt and unjust through the thoughts and actions of greedy. In Eugénie Grandet. through actions or words. We discern the nuances as the student Rastignac himself learns to do. 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). Indeed we might even point to a larger contrast between the moral behaviour of men and women in this novel. In Old Goriot. How do you think this relates to Balzac’s own views about the state of Restoration France? 34 . his revolt is against Man. you will. who. a revealing glance. Parisian society is shown to be greedy. Is Balzac presenting us with a modern Garden of Eden scene? Note the ways in which Vautrin criticises society. Contrast was one of the main principles around which Balzac constructed his novels. we are told ‘provided…a strange contrast to the worthy provincials. corrupt and unjust individuals. Look at the long conversation between Rastignac and Vautrin in the garden (Chapter 2). Focus on the treatments of the servant figures in the novels – Nanon and Fat Sylvie. Do you agree with this view? Compare the presentation of female characters in both novels. As Diana Festa-McCormick claims in her book.78) What does Eugène de Rastignac learn as he journeys across Paris. Vautrin is a figure of temptation and revolt rather like Satan in Milton’s Paradise Lost. a hidden tear. conscious and unconscious. thereby establishing their importance in the novel and their interrelationships. but they are a constituency without power (or money). The miser Grandet lacks a moral sense and we see this in his behaviour and attitude to his wife.

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

Balzac did not cultivate a 36 . is the real subject of all Balzac’s novels. The ravings of the old noodle merchant contain painful truths. to sell his gold for paper money. who looked to some of his novels as practical guides to understanding the complex notions of stocks. He was very interested in money. and the novel describes his obsession with wealth and his efforts to maximise profit at the expense of human life. The monomania of Grandet is similarly overwhelming.The Novel Money The exuberance of the money-making process. like Shakespeare’s King Lear. but.’ he says to his daughter. Balzac lays bare in many of his novels the workings of a society increasingly dominated by commercial interests and the lustre of money. he is incapable of loving his wife and daughter more than his wealth and power. Even on his deathbed he refuses to renounce his materialism. the miser Grandet takes on some of the characteristics of the gold he covets. The ‘seven boarders were Madame Vauquer’s spoiled children. is spurned by his daughters who unfeelingly squander his gifts in order to achieve a higher social standing. knowing when. ‘Take good care of everything. and we are given extensive descriptions of financial transactions. Through his purchase of such land Grandet makes his fortune. unlike Goriot. and this allows him to speculate – he is extremely good at this. for example. and she distributed her attentions and favours among them with an astronomer’s precision according to the sum of money each paid’ (Section 1). sorts and grades them in terms of how much they pay or are worth. shares and equity. ‘You will have to account to me for all of it in the next world. it can be argued. Grandet makes a lot of money by understanding the way society works. 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. telling us what to think and how to read. Unlike his contemporaries. Flaubert and Guy de Maupassant. Goriot. which reveal to Eugène de Rastignac the imperfect but real nature of society. In Eugène de Rastignac he finds an alternative substitute son. and his manipulation of finance can be read as an example of what happened in France after 1789 when land owned by the Church was nationalised and subsequently bought not by the poor landless peasants who worked on it. Look at the final scenes where Goriot is slowly dying. Both stories end tragically. but by the rich in the towns. With the money he has acquired through the buying-up of land Grandet acquires government stock. In Eugénie Grandet. There are many similarities between the story of King Lear and Old Goriot. 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. for example. as were his readers. The opening description of Madame Vauquer’s boarders in Old Goriot.’ (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. As a social Realist.

the critic Roland Barthes claimed that reading the novels actually made him sick. Balzac’s commentaries on the life of a young girl in Chapter 3 of Eugénie Grandet. He was extremely attuned to the changing nuances of everyday speech. the conversational nuances of the French working class are played out hilariously by the boarders who. he exercises an authority in his novels. Unable to stomach Balzac’s self-assured rhetoric. as Balzac states. when together. ‘Rama’ is a verbal game that unites the boarders. Two particular episodes are worth noting in this connection. This episode provides comic relief in the story. in effect. 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.Chapter 2: Section A author study: Honoré de Balzac (Eugénie Grandet and Old Goriot) transparent narrative voice. Instead. for example. but it also demonstrates Balzac’s acute sensitivity to the world in which he lived. In Old Goriot. often lapse into ‘talking rama’ (Section 1). This latter notion of language as a form of currency is an old one (think about the phrase ‘to coin a phrase’ for example). and it would be difficult to analyse some of the linguistic structures in detail. who gain a certain coherence as a community through a shared language. ‘Rama’. Find places in Eugénie Grandet and Old Goriot where Balzac makes his presence felt. urging us to see the world as he sees it. 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. In Eugénie Grandet language is manipulated by Grandet the miser to achieve a certain result in a financial deal. as something traded by individuals for certain benefits or material gains. Consider. a literal example of ‘linguistic coinage’. 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.’ Language is used expertly here to buy time and hence to win a deal: it is. 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.

3. 4.The Novel Learning outcomes By the end of this chapter and the relevant reading. In 1834. 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. Sample essay questions 1. Discuss the notion of social class in Balzac’s novels. to show a moral sewer of Paris that gives the effect of a disgusting sore’. 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. 2. ‘It was necessary in order to be complete. Balzac wrote. To what extent can we read Eugénie Grandet and Old Goriot as the stories of rebellion by children against their parents? 38 . social and economic issues describe Balzac’s narrative voice approach the work of other Realist writers using your familiarity with Balzac’s approach to his subject. What contrast does Balzac make between the city and the provinces? Discuss with reference to at least two novels. especially those relating to moral.

1987) [ISBN 014002476X]. Muriel Spark and John Fowles: Didactic Demons in Modern Fiction. 1992) [ISBN 0-415-07825-3] 181–200. (London. You may use any edition that you find convenient. (London: Routledge. On Murdoch This selection covers texts with useful material on The Unicorn. 1988) [ISBN 0838633242]. (London: Farleigh Dickinson University Press.S. 1998) [ISBN 009974371X]. 39 . Dipple. (London: Macmillan. Iris Murdoch (1963) The Unicorn. Donna Iris Murdoch. Two essays are recommended: Moore-Gilbert. Simon The Romances of John Fowles. The only full-length text on the topic is: Sage. 1982) [ISBN 0-333-32846-9]. (London: Vintage. 1994) [ISBN 0099302241]. Elizabeth Iris Murdoch: Work for the Spirit. A. 1982) [ISBN 0-416-31290-X]. Randall ‘Contemporary Gothic’ in his The British Novel Since the Thirties: An Introduction. Byatt. Victor Modern Gothic: A Reader. Gerstenberger. Bart ‘The Return of the Repressed: Gothic and the 1960s novel’ in Moore-Gilbert. Stevenson. (London: Vintage. Bart and John Seed (eds) Cultural Revolution?: The Challenge of the Arts in the 1960s. Peter John Fowles. (Manchester: Manchester University Press. (London: Methuen. (1970) Degrees of Freedom: The Novels of Iris Murdoch. Conradi. Please note that new paperback editions of modern novels like these frequently appear. Richard Iris Murdoch. 1986) [ISBN 0-7134-4664-1] 184–89. 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: Associated Universities Press. 1996) [ISBN 0-219-04208-9]. Macmillan. Loveday. Kane. (Harmondsworth: Penguin. 1988) [ISBN 0333444825 (pbk)].Chapter 3: Section B topic study: modern Gothic Chapter 3 Section B topic study: modern Gothic Essential reading John Fowles (1963) The Collector. 1975) [ISBN 0-8387-7731-7]. On Fowles This selection covers texts with useful material on The Collector. (London: Batsford.

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

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

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

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

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

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

you could read Fowles’ The Magus (1966). Now consider class issues in Murdoch’s novel. 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 you want to work up an author. In Shakespeare’s text. which is symptomatic of the decade in which these texts were written more generally. asserting that ‘there’s nothing to hold back the New People. 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. or Murdoch’s A Severed Head (1961) or The Italian Girl (1964) which 46 . and allusion to. far closer to the disadvantaged subject-position of Caliban. you need not feel obliged to stay with these texts. Despite his assumption of the name Ferdinand. 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. Prospero and Miranda attempt to educate. In Fowles’ text. earlier literary texts. She even uses the rhetoric of World War Two. You can adapt the material above in a number of different ways. instead of a genre study based around modern Gothic. the text draws heavily. and a blurring of boundaries between culture and politics. In the end. before imprisoning him. like Effingham? Suggestions for further study While we have concentrated on The Collector and The Unicorn in this chapter of the subject guide. more personal. describing herself as one of ‘the Few’. she loses confidence. This raises serious doubts about the status and function of ‘high’ culture. and therefore as a disadvantaged individual. The Collector explicitly explores the way in which ‘high’ culture is a field of conflict articulating wider class tensions. and its curious reluctance to deal directly or non-ironically with women’s experience’. or acculturate. their unfortunate host. These interests coincide in the attention which each text pays to the role of ‘high’ culture in constructing social identities in modern societies. defending a tradition of ‘breeding’ and ‘high’ culture against the barbarians represented by Clegg. of course. they’ll grow stronger and stronger and swamp us’. circumstances in his life which make him seem like a victim. On the evidence of this text.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. 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. even a victim? Identify the other. Clegg is. if at times ironically. on Shakespeare’s The Tempest. 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. As you will no doubt have noticed. Much modern Gothic is sceptical that any distinction can be drawn between ‘high’ and ‘popular’ culture in this respect. other.

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

The Novel Notes 48 .

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

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

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

The Novel

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

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

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

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Chapter 4: Section B topic study: post-modernism

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

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

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

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The Novel

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

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

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

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

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

and the boy grows up to speak incomprehensible gibberish such as ‘Wimble click crumblechaw beloo’. he believes that. 2. we might say that the attempt to impose a single. Compare and contrast the use of post-modernist fictional strategies in the work of two authors of your choice. to put ourselves in absolute control of our words. Sample essay questions 1. cut off from the world’s corrupting influence. you should glean some instructive insights into the differences between traditional-realist and post-modernist fiction. architecture.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. 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. You must focus on at least two novels by different authors. Auster implies. authoritative ‘metanarrative’ on the inherent diversity and complexity of language will inevitably collapse. uncorrupted language of God. Suggestions for further study After studying the aspects of post-modernism covered in this chapter of the subject guide. Explain how writings in other disciplines. however. 4. 57 . You may find it useful to compare City of Glass with a more traditional detective story such as Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep. the boy will speak the perfect. such as geography. compare with those of Quinn? By responding to these questions. 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. 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. 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. 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. In fact. art history and so on. The following list is by no means exhaustive: • • • gender and post-modernism race and post-modernism genre and post-modernism. may prove useful in studying post-modernist fiction. film studies. 3. as well as their interrelation. Marlowe. What are the central differences between the two authors’ approaches to the genre? How do the methods of Chandler’s detective. is doomed to fail. the experiment fails. In Lyotard’s terms. The attempt to remove indeterminacy from language.

The Novel Notes 58 .

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

’ Discuss this statement with reference to two or more novelists you have studied. and elements which would seem strange in another context are made intelligible with the genre. discuss what is distinctive about the representation of subjectivity in ‘modernist’ or ‘postmodernist’ novels. With reference to the work of two or more novelists you have studied.’ (LEO TOLSTOY. ‘Genre conventions establish a kind of contract between the text and the reader. 19.The Novel 14. 18. 60 . Captain Harville in Persuasion) Discuss the contribution of at least two woman novelists from the eighteenth or nineteenth century to the art of fiction. 16.’ (JANE AUSTEN. Discuss the significance of either satire or parody with reference to two or more novelists you have studied. so that some expectations are rendered plausible. every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. Anna Karenina) Discuss the role of tragedy with reference to at least two novelists you have studied. 15. Curricula for the study of the novel are often organised chronologically. 17. 20. these were all written by men. 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. Explain how a different system of organisation might be productive with reference to two or more novelists you have studied. ‘Happy families are all alike. Discuss the contribution to the novel form of two or more novelists who are of neither European nor American origin.

Notes Notes 61 .

The Novel Notes 62 .

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