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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Novel Notes 16 .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Novel Notes 26 .

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘who do not even know the names of those whose chestnuts they pull out of the fire’ (Old Goriot. In Old Goriot. Poiret. there are the microcosms of the Maison Vauquer and the fashionable parts of Paris. noting when they appear and how they relate to one another. Baroness Delphine de Nucingen. the Duchess de Langeais and various noblemen. the entire social spectrum. at the centre of which is the Grandet household consisting of Old Grandet himself. The French existentialist writer and critic. Charles. philosophers and scientists right across Europe in the nineteenth century. 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. Madame Vauquer. the medical student. artists. Madame Grandet. seated to dine at a provincial restaurant. In the Maison Vauquer. He understood the nature of the underclass. You might find it useful. 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. By mapping the characters and their 33 . the story revolves around the town of Saumur. Eugénie. Balzac described his role as a writer in 1833 as that of a humble copyist. whose sole aim is to lay claim to Grandet’s enormous wealth. from the highest to the lowest echelons. temporarily. Jean-Paul Sartre. In the fashionable areas of Paris. How successful do you think this metaphor is for describing the work of Balzac? You might like to consider Chapter 15 of George Eliot’s Middlemarch (1871–2). the ‘Parisian catspaws’ as he described them. made reference to the complex notion of Balzac’s Realism in his novel. for example. Chapter 1). Eugène de Rastignac. Nausea (1938). Balzac’s sensitivity to the details of French society. 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. Vautrin. Mademoiselle Taillefer. Mademoiselle Michonneau. becomes a defining feature of writers. but this comment should not be taken at face value. we meet Viscountess de Beauséant. Countess Anastasie de Restaud. You might like to consider the notion of ‘realistic’ in relation to your own reading of these two novels by Balzac. 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.Chapter 2: Section A author study: Honoré de Balzac (Eugénie Grandet and Old Goriot) mechanical and the bourgeois. probably inspired Somerset Maugham’s comment in Ten Novels and Their Authors (1954) that Balzac was a ‘vulgar little man’. fragmentary and incomprehensible – and the so-called ‘realistic’ conversation in the novel – structured and coherent. 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. where the reference to the processes of medical research may be taken as a metaphor for the approach of the Realist writer. Nanon and. is trying to read a passage in Eugénie Grandet concerning a conversation between Eugénie and her mother. In Eugénie Grandet. and others such as Bianchon. to ‘map’ the characters against the narrative structure – make a list of them. where the main character. after reading the novels.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Miranda. for instance. it is isolated. domestic violence can 42 . between contemporary Gothic and its earlier forms. violence of manifold kinds and sexual ‘deviancy’. Clegg too is an orphan in the Fowles novel. 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. or even Pip Lejour and Effingham Cooper. 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. is transformed into obsession. like them it is very old (built in 1625).The Novel figure. who recalls the protagonist in James’ The Turn of the Screw. 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’. most modern Gothic – like The Collector – prefers a more ordinary social milieu than the religious orders or aristocracy favoured by Romantic Gothic. as in the case of Clegg or Gerald Scottow. note how the architectural conventions of earlier Gothic return. so that settings which are traditionally distanced in time or space are so now only vestigially or symbolically. 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’. To what extent are Clegg and Hannah ‘mad’ or simply extremely clever or manipulative? In terms of the physical settings of the novels. In certain respects Clegg is quite ordinary. Finally. including kidnap and imprisonment – mental as well as physical. In contemporary Gothic. It tends to ‘domesticate’ many of the genre’s established conventions. vampires and monsters survive only metaphorically. as in Romantic Gothic. Marion Taylor in The Unicorn is another governess (or companion) figure who is made to face the limitations of her own knowledge by her ‘charge’. the often unambiguously supernatural aspect of earlier Gothic disappears. What uses does Murdoch’s novel make of the architecture of the great house? Suspense and horror. Possession. Modern Gothic usually has a surface realism that allows the reader to suspend disbelief in the face of apparently extreme events and situations. The ‘domestication’ of modern Gothic relates to one of its most important insights. within a psychologically realistic framework. once a priest’s hole. that the everyday and the ‘normal’ may be sources of horror and terror quite as potent as anything conceived of by earlier Gothic. it is claustrophobic and has a basement room. What factors make Clegg appear so ordinary? Most obviously. that functions as a kind of dungeon. including incest (hinted at in Hannah’s marriage to her cousin). Each behaves ‘monstrously’ without ever threatening to become non-human. so characteristic of earlier Gothic. of course. are heightened in contemporary equivalents like The Collector and The Unicorn by similar plot conventions. ghosts. voyeurism and sado-masochism recur in the work of Murdoch and Fowles. Many earlier Gothic texts focus on orphan figures and. too.

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

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

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

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

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

The Novel Notes 48 .

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

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

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

The Novel

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

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

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

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Chapter 4: Section B topic study: post-modernism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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which he sets out in his book The Postmodern Condition. 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. If you want to find out more about them. As we’ll now see. start with Baudrillard’s short volume. it may be worth reading an introductory text first: Bill Readings’ Understanding Lyotard and Douglas Kellner’s Jean Baudrillard are both recommended. shows that such imposed systems can wreak unspeakable horror. and Lyotard’s The Postmodern Explained to Children. is what is called ‘self-reflexivity’. In so doing. 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’. can be seen at work in a different form in a number of post-modernist literary texts. in which the author shatters the storytelling illusion by being self-conscious about how the text we are reading is written. City of Glass illustrates this tendency very clearly. How do the novels you have read undermine the idea that tensions and contradictions in society can be ‘resolved’? To what extent can the Dylar narrative in White Noise and the story of Peter Stillman’s experiment on his son in City of Glass be seen as implicit critiques of utopian thinking? The major political systems. politics and society on individuals. Lyotard argues for a world of ‘small’. the narrators of post-modern novels are typically unreliable. despite its celebration of a plurality of different speech registers and literary styles. Simulations. fascism. he suggests they can take many paths from many different groups and individuals. 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. all impose one model of ethics. Claude Simon. Both the French theorists discussed in this chapter. are complex and demanding writers. In contrast to the modernist illusion that all conflicts can be resolved by a single system. Marguerite Duras) to the playful work of Italians Italo Calvino and Umberto Eco. Donalde Barthelme and Robert Coover.Chapter 4: Section B topic study: post-modernism Prescribing post-modernism: Lyotard We now come to Jean-François Lyotard’s philosophy of post-modernism. authoritative narrative voice (or ‘metanarrative’) that can organise and ‘explain’ the events recounted. Ulysses. A central feature of post-modern fiction. Even James Joyce’s great experimental work. History. giving them a certain ideological and moral coherence. he or she unmasks the ‘realism’ of the traditional novel as an illusion. multiple or a combination of the three. Lyotard’s argument for social and political diversity. 55 . Baudrillard and Lyotard. By this rather daunting phrase. From the French nouveau roman of the 1960s (Alain Robbe-Grillet. ultimately imposes a unifying mythic pattern on that plurality. or ‘metanarratives’ of ‘modernity’. If you’re more ambitious and want to read the writers themselves. in which a plurality of social voices can coexist creatively even when in conflict. and most obviously the Nazi Holocaust. literature in the last few decades has rejected the idea of a single. communism and global capitalism. which arises out of its distrust of narrative authority. ideas and activities coexisting not in absolute harmony but in creative tension. Against the assumption that all thought and action can be driven in a single direction. unstable. to experimental American writers John Barth.

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

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

The Novel Notes 58 .

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

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

Notes Notes 61 .

The Novel Notes 62 .

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