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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Novel Notes 16 .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Novel Notes 26 .

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

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

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

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

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

because art and literature also became democratised. she maintains. It had to be about the here and now – what was tangible and visible. was also composed of genres and sub-genres. 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. 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. Consider the implications of Balzac’s adoption of a taxonomical (that is. In Volume 3 of Das Kapital (1894). Balzac is not interested in revisiting historical moments: his stories reside in the present. The move towards political and social democracy in France was particularly significant for Realism. prefers to find inspiration in a pile of cabbages rather than the picturesque medievalism of the Romantics. Charles Lantier. the artist-hero. where he finds his inspiration and material. the new social and political conditions of nineteenth-century man and woman.The Novel In the preface of 1842. In Émile Zola’s novel The Masterpiece (1886). Balzac drew an explicit analogy between his grand literary project and the classificatory disciplines of history and science. with the expression of new. Although Realist modes of writing were established before the nineteenth century. Contemporaneity was. 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. 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. we must remember that they fit into a larger project. radical forces. for example. Karl Marx admired Balzac’s novels because he said that Balzac understood class society. Realism as a conscious mode was not possible. The middle classes (which were rapidly growing in number) and the poor had been previously ignored. So Realism gained strength in the nineteenth century and it was associated. in the most direct way. but in the nineteenth century they became important subjects for Realist writers and painters. Realism In the nineteenth century Realism reflected. The novels of Balzac reflect these social and political changes. Balzac understood the social and economic shift away from the aristocratic in France to the 32 . and also the role and function of characters. and they were intended to represent variations on the theme of human social life. because individual perceptions of external reality were bound up still with metaphysical systems of belief and faith. classificatory) model for structuring his fiction. based on a meticulous observation of contemporary life’. and could be established by material fact. 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. He had what Linda Nochlin has described in her book Realism as an enthusiasm for giving a ‘truthful. Nothing was regarded as too ignoble or ugly to be painted. comparable to the animal world’s division into ‘species’. In Eugénie Grandet and Old Goriot. The human world. Marx described Balzac as ‘a novelist who is in general distinguished by his profound grasp of real conditions’.) In studying Eugénie Grandet and Old Goriot. 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. in his view. He tells the story of his own times and life in post-revolutionary France. objective and impartial representation of the real world. particularly in France. the most crucial element in Realist writing and painting.

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

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

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

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

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

What contrast does Balzac make between the city and the provinces? Discuss with reference to at least two novels. especially those relating to moral. Balzac wrote. 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. To what extent can we read Eugénie Grandet and Old Goriot as the stories of rebellion by children against their parents? 38 . 2. ‘It was necessary in order to be complete. 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. 4. Discuss the notion of social class in Balzac’s novels.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Novel Notes 48 .

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

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

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

The Novel

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

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

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

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Chapter 4: Section B topic study: post-modernism

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Novel Notes 58 .

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

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

Notes Notes 61 .

The Novel Notes 62 .

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