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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Novel Notes 16 .

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marianne Dashwood. Austen’s novels are consistently preoccupied with the lives of young women whose security and happiness are radically threatened. in spite of the generally negative assessments of those around them. then it seems to pervade the autumnal atmosphere of Persuasion. 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. by choosing to present such exemplary and near ideal heroines. Austen confronts the difficulties of convincing readers that her exemplary heroines are in some sense living and breathing rather than ‘flat’ allegorical figures. while on the other it charts the painful isolation of Fanny Price. the heroines are already exemplary insofar as they think of others ahead of self and tend to judge by external. Thus. a novel like Mansfield Park seeks to affirm traditional Christian values in a way that bespeaks some confidence. 23 . however. However. Fanny’s sense of self-worth is hard won in a milieu that proves sometimes aggressively uncongenial to her values of quietness. is that her one chance of happiness – in the form of marriage to Captain Wentworth – seems to be behind her when the novel begins. What makes Anne’s situation particularly painful. she needs to show that. Anne Elliot is that much more isolated than even Fanny Price.rather than eighteenth-century end of the spectrum touched upon above. Emma Woodhouse and even Elizabeth Bennet learn the dangers of subjectivism in the course of the narratives in which they are central. Thus. Consider some of the ways in which Persuasion might be seen as a more melancholy and pessimistic novel than Mansfield Park. with a moral integrity that is lacking in other characters. In both novels. and partly because it does signal some formal and thematic departures from Austen’s previous novels. how would you set about interpreting the rest of the novel? Look carefully at the preparation for the performance of Lovers’ Vows (the debate begins seriously in Chapter XIII and the remainder of the first volume is largely taken up with the theatricals) and the ramifications that follow the return of Sir Thomas Bertram. Fanny and Anne really are worthy. and. If the threat of personal and cultural atrophy is raised only to be expunged in Mansfield Park. Firstly. Austen’s novels generally prefer objective ‘facts’ to subjective judgements. Austen is faced with a number of problems. like Fanny. Persuasion has often been placed at the nineteenth. Partly because it is her last completed novel. For all that they finally adhere to the conventions of comedy. on the one hand. stillness and selfabnegation. many of them ideological. Catherine Morland. Interestingly. objective standards rather than subjectively. Anne too is ignored and undervalued by those around her for most of the narrative. like Fanny.Chapter 1: Section A author study: Jane Austen Bearing in mind that the physical structure of Mansfield Park stands as a metonym for a traditional English culture. Austen imbues Anne. Secondly. the situation is slightly different in Mansfield Park and Persuasion. 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 Anne might finish her breakfast as she could. This paragraph. 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. of course. a bow.The Novel To what extent do you feel Austen is able to overcome these potential difficulties? What are the primary technical means by which she attempts to transcend these possible limitations? Austen’s techniques are complex enough to require careful scrutiny. 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. of which this was the most consoling. to resolve and close all the questions that a given novel poses. Indeed. for example. Think again about how Austen handles point of view in both novels. In minutes after Charles’s preparation. but how far can we go with the notion that here and elsewhere in the novel Austen endorses a subjectivism that verges on solipsism? Look again at the paragraphs that follow the one quoted above. perhaps. By presenting the majority of events from her heroine’s perspectives. And it was soon over. 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. begins and ends with apparently exterior views. paying particular attention to the way in which Anne responds to her meeting with Captain Wentworth. More particularly. that it would soon be over. Austen opens up the active and intelligent minds of Fanny and Anne to the gaze of her readers. Her eye half met Captain Wentworth’s. For many readers. very much gratified by this attention…’ typifies a peculiarly ‘modern’ subjectivism that pervades the novel. she heard his voice – he talked to Mary. but in simple terms it is a skilful and flexible handling of point of view that enables her to succeed in presenting us with heroines who might otherwise prove totally unsympathetic. it is in spite of Austen’s best efforts. By employing a third-person narrative voice in tandem with a flexible use of focalisation (the important distinction here is between who ‘speaks’ and who ‘sees’ a particular narrative event). they were in the drawing room. the paragraph beginning ‘Mary. such closure may do some violence to what some theorists of the novel see as the inherently ‘dialogic’ nature of the novel form. and to what effect. Austen succeeds brilliantly here in giving a sense of the rush of emotions and impressions that assail Anne. 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. so that once again the narrative is subtly working to win us over to the approved values of the heroine. Austen’s use of narrative voice in the novel is intimately bound up with her broader concerns. the others appeared. Austen is able to move freely between interior and exterior views. said something to the Miss Musgroves. How. 24 . If Fanny Price and possibly Anne Elliot remain less than fully endearing to modern readers. ambivalence that stems from Austen’s chosen techniques. We are in no way obliged. a curtsey passed. but in between moves so close to Anne’s perspective that it might be read as a kind of ‘stream of consciousness’: …a thousand feelings rushed upon Anne. Austen affords us privileged insights unavailable to the other characters who inhabit the imagined worlds of the novels. Furthermore. said all that was right.

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

The Novel Notes 26 .

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

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

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

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

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

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 Émile Zola’s novel The Masterpiece (1886). and also the role and function of characters. because art and literature also became democratised. In Volume 3 of Das Kapital (1894). Charles Lantier. Although Realist modes of writing were established before the nineteenth century. So Realism gained strength in the nineteenth century and it was associated. 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. in his view. 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. objective and impartial representation of the real world. in the most direct way. Karl Marx admired Balzac’s novels because he said that Balzac understood class society. Balzac is not interested in revisiting historical moments: his stories reside in the present. Realism as a conscious mode was not possible. He had what Linda Nochlin has described in her book Realism as an enthusiasm for giving a ‘truthful. Marx described Balzac as ‘a novelist who is in general distinguished by his profound grasp of real conditions’. because individual perceptions of external reality were bound up still with metaphysical systems of belief and faith. based on a meticulous observation of contemporary life’. but in the nineteenth century they became important subjects for Realist writers and painters. she maintains. 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. where he finds his inspiration and material. radical forces. the most crucial element in Realist writing and painting. The middle classes (which were rapidly growing in number) and the poor had been previously ignored. It had to be about the here and now – what was tangible and visible. and they were intended to represent variations on the theme of human social life. Balzac understood the social and economic shift away from the aristocratic in France to the 32 . The move towards political and social democracy in France was particularly significant for Realism. The human world. the artist-hero.The Novel In the preface of 1842. comparable to the animal world’s division into ‘species’. He tells the story of his own times and life in post-revolutionary France. particularly in France. for example. was also composed of genres and sub-genres. Consider the implications of Balzac’s adoption of a taxonomical (that is. In Eugénie Grandet and Old Goriot. The past was no longer seen as the sole subject for art. (Note that Old Goriot is dedicated to a zoologist called Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire. classificatory) model for structuring his fiction. we must remember that they fit into a larger project. The novels of Balzac reflect these social and political changes. prefers to find inspiration in a pile of cabbages rather than the picturesque medievalism of the Romantics.) In studying Eugénie Grandet and Old Goriot. Contemporaneity was. the new social and political conditions of nineteenth-century man and woman. and could be established by material fact. Realism In the nineteenth century Realism reflected. with the expression of new. The culmination of the Enlightenment in first the American and then the French Revolutions gave Western humanity the material conditions in which self-consciousness about issues like Realism became possible. The organisation of his fiction under the overarching title The Human Comedy was an attempt to emulate the zoological sciences that grouped animals in terms of species and sub-species.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Novel Notes 48 .

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

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

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

The Novel

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

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

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

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Chapter 4: Section B topic study: post-modernism

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

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

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

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The Novel

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Novel Notes 58 .

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

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

Notes Notes 61 .

The Novel Notes 62 .

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