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

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

• • • • 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. the term will be restricted to fictional works. American. 1 . You are also recommended to study authors from across the British. a ‘canon’ of sorts.Introduction Introduction This subject. It will focus primarily on works originally written in English but will also consider novels in translation. You should try to read at least some of the novels from this list. The term ‘novel’ has been loosely applied by writers and critics to a broad range of texts but.e. The following list is by no means exhaustive. This subject guide focuses on novels from the eighteenth century to the present. the selection of texts will inevitably be more limited to European novels.) 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. is a Group B advanced unit. The novel.and nineteenth-century realist novels. (Self-assessment procedures are discussed in the Handbook. Bear in mind that you will want to explore the novel both synchronically (i. as it exists at a given moment without reference to its past) and diachronically (i. for the purposes of this subject. but you should not feel limited by this selection. but you are allowed to study and write on earlier material where relevant. it is a selection of important and influential novels you may care to study.e. 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. early twentieth-century modernist novels and some post-modern fiction. of sufficient length to be deemed ‘novels’. When studying the earlier history of the genre. 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. as it passed through time). includes and what it leaves out. European and non-Western traditions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Novel Notes 16 .

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

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

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

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

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

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

Austen’s novels are consistently preoccupied with the lives of young women whose security and happiness are radically threatened. Firstly. Fanny’s sense of self-worth is hard won in a milieu that proves sometimes aggressively uncongenial to her values of quietness. In both novels. is that her one chance of happiness – in the form of marriage to Captain Wentworth – seems to be behind her when the novel begins. Anne too is ignored and undervalued by those around her for most of the narrative. 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. What makes Anne’s situation particularly painful. while on the other it charts the painful isolation of Fanny Price. the situation is slightly different in Mansfield Park and Persuasion. Thus.rather than eighteenth-century end of the spectrum touched upon above. Thus. then it seems to pervade the autumnal atmosphere of Persuasion. stillness and selfabnegation. Emma Woodhouse and even Elizabeth Bennet learn the dangers of subjectivism in the course of the narratives in which they are central. Does a sense of flux or stability finally dominate the novel? Why does Austen use several locations rather than a central one in the novel? To what extent does the novel suggest a loss of faith in the privileged value in Mansfield Park? For a number of complex reasons. and. 23 . by choosing to present such exemplary and near ideal heroines. For all that they finally adhere to the conventions of comedy. Marianne Dashwood. Interestingly. the heroines are already exemplary insofar as they think of others ahead of self and tend to judge by external. Austen’s novels generally prefer objective ‘facts’ to subjective judgements. in spite of the generally negative assessments of those around them. Austen imbues Anne. Fanny and Anne really are worthy. on the one hand. however. objective standards rather than subjectively. Anne Elliot is that much more isolated than even Fanny Price. Austen confronts the difficulties of convincing readers that her exemplary heroines are in some sense living and breathing rather than ‘flat’ allegorical figures. If the threat of personal and cultural atrophy is raised only to be expunged in Mansfield Park. many of them ideological. with a moral integrity that is lacking in other characters. Catherine Morland. she needs to show that. However. Austen is faced with a number of problems. Partly because it is her last completed novel. 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. Persuasion has often been placed at the nineteenth. and partly because it does signal some formal and thematic departures from Austen’s previous novels.Chapter 1: Section A author study: Jane Austen Bearing in mind that the physical structure of Mansfield Park stands as a metonym for a traditional English culture. a novel like Mansfield Park seeks to affirm traditional Christian values in a way that bespeaks some confidence. like Fanny. Secondly. like Fanny. Consider some of the ways in which Persuasion might be seen as a more melancholy and pessimistic novel than Mansfield Park.

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

How useful is the term ‘realism’ in relation to Austen’s fiction? 3. Consider Austen’s handling of the relationship between the individual and society. and the events around Louisa’s fall in Chapter XII. 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’. does Austen share with other novelists since Cervantes an almost obsessive concern with epistemological questions? What kinds of family resemblances are there between Austen’s heroines and the protagonists of other nineteenth. and how such ‘realism’ relates to other novels and novelistic traditions. 25 . dialogue. for example. Learning outcomes By the end of this chapter. What values does Austen embody in the Navy and what are the wider social implications of Anne’s marriage to Captain Wentworth? Suggestions for further study As you gain a greater sense of some of the preoccupations of the novel as it developed in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. you might consider how Austen’s fiction relates to novels that appear otherwise quite different. having studied the essential reading and some of the recommended critical texts. Consider the relationship between any two of Austen’s novels and aspects of either eighteenth.Chapter 1: Section A author study: Jane Austen Nevertheless. To what extent. 2. Consider the significance of one of the following in Austen’s fiction: place. point of view. 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. Sample essay questions 1. 4. you might pursue your reading of Persuasion further so as to clarify a broader understanding of the novel. irony.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.or nineteenth-century fiction.

The Novel Notes 26 .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sample essay questions 1. 3. Balzac wrote. 2. In what ways can Balzac’s work be seen as reflecting the nineteenth-century obsession with scientific enquiry? Discuss with reference to at least two novels. especially those relating to moral. to show a moral sewer of Paris that gives the effect of a disgusting sore’. 4.The Novel Learning outcomes By the end of this chapter and the relevant reading. In 1834. What contrast does Balzac make between the city and the provinces? Discuss with reference to at least two novels. 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. 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. To what extent can we read Eugénie Grandet and Old Goriot as the stories of rebellion by children against their parents? 38 . ‘It was necessary in order to be complete. Discuss the notion of social class in Balzac’s novels.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Novel Notes 48 .

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

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

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

53

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

‘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. However. chance and randomness. I probably would have done the same thing’. Initially he informs the caller that he has the wrong number. by relegating himself to the status of a minor character in his own text. 56 . a decision that leads him to assume the role of detective in a strange and elaborate case. only to find seconds later that a second man is walking directly behind the first. remarks. Quinn/Auster’s brief is to find and tail the father of his employer. Daniel Quinn. For example. Quinn spots him coming off a train. so that every actual plot is haunted by the ‘ghosts’ of other. ‘pure’ language of God. At the start of the novel the central character. which subverts the conventions of the crime genre by failing to resolve the web of events in a neatly resolved pattern. raising questions about its own status as a text and about the nature of authorship. 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. ‘If I had been in your place. he replies. Quinn finally decides to follow the ‘first’ Stillman.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. a detective writer whose wife has died. it is a pastiche of the detective story. The elder Stillman’s curious ideas about. Peter Stillman. 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. we continue to call a broken umbrella an umbrella. to make our words ‘at last say what we have to say’. and experiments with. when the same caller rings and asks for Auster again. The first book in Auster’s New York Trilogy. 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. is phoned in the middle of the night by an unknown person asking for ‘The Paul Auster Detective Agency’. How does the encounter between Quinn and ‘Auster’ illustrate the strategy of metafictional play? Consider how. even though ‘“it can no longer perform its function” and has therefore “ceased to be an umbrella”’. Auster demonstrates that at every point. Auster undermines the traditional conception of the author as the invisible but allknowing ‘God-like’ force at the centre of the book. language further explore the theme of contingency. Quinn tracks down and visits the ‘real’ Paul Auster and tells him of the events that have taken place. but the arbitrariness of this decision offers a sly self-reflexive comment on the arbitrariness of the novelist’s choices. 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. ‘This is Auster speaking’. It questions the very possibility of narrative realism. ingeniously undercutting the illusion of a reliable narrator through its self-reflexive strategies. ‘his face the exact twin of Stillman’s’. who locked his son in a room throughout his childhood in order to test an obscure theological thesis about the ‘original’. unrealised plots. the novelist is forced to carry his story at random in one direction rather than another. Waiting in secret for the elder Stillman at Grand Central Station. Stillman’s project is to iron this imprecision out of language. Stillman finds that the existing form of human language is inadequate because it is imprecise. at the mercy of contingency. when told by Quinn of what has happened. During the course of the novel.

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

The Novel Notes 58 .

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

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

Notes Notes 61 .

The Novel Notes 62 .

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