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

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

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

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

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

1997) third edition [ISBN 0-340.69220-0 (pbk)]. You will know from your work on the foundation units that the nature of English studies has changed radically over the last 20 years. Bear this in mind. Rimmon-Kenan. authoritative. Jeremy Studying the Novel. So the entry ‘Cervantes’. the kind of short. Secondary reading Essential texts Hawthorn. Murphy (eds) Essentials of the Theory of Fiction. with the help of the Handbook and bearing the following in mind. 0-7185-0120-9 (pbk)]. say. Mikhail M. (1983) The Rhetoric of Fiction. and Patrick D. (Austin: University of Texas Press. if basic. 1975) [ISBN 0-520-02755-8]. introduction to many of the key issues and topics. for example. (London and New York: Routledge. If all the criticism that you read on. 1991) second edition [ISBN 0-14-013736-X (pbk)]. A highly influential and admirably clear study of the ‘rhetoric’ of a wide range of American and European novels. the bibliographies in such books are a good starting place. Most libraries have computerised indexing which will cross-reference. do not assume that criticism from an earlier date is necessarily redundant. A brief but elegant statement of a post-modernist rejection of realism in France. but also biographies. Erich Mimesis: the Representation of Reality in Western Literature. A clear. Michael J. (London and New York: Arnold. The Dialogic Imagination. Roland (1967) Writing Degree Zero. etc. (Berkeley. The author traces the gradual raising of low-life mimesis to the level of high art and offers a close analysis of passages. Although they are not available for all the novels that you might study. Holquist. critical readings. Bakhtin. critical discussions of individual novels offered by a series like the Cambridge ‘Landmarks of World Literature’ will generally provide sufficient information on given texts. Shlomith (1983) Narrative Fiction: Contemporary Poetics. Wayne C. (Princeton. so if you want to find out more about. Translated by Annette Lavers and Colin Smith. The constraints of time make it impossible for you to read very widely on particular authors. 1984) [ISBN 0-224-02267-9]. A fluent study of the ‘tradition’ of self-conscious novelists who question and parody dominant novel-types. (Harmondsworth: Penguin. Four Essays by M.M. 1996) second edition [ISBN 0-7185-0119-5 (hbk). George Eliot was written in the 1950s you may have a limited idea of the range of critical responses to this writer. Trask. say. Booth. should produce lists of Cervantes’ writing.The Novel authors and topics not listed above or discussed in this subject guide you will need to compile your own reading lists. At the same time. 1982) [ISBN 0-292-71534-X]. 4 . an Introduction. Translated by W. Edited by M. A very useful collection of essays by some of the major commentators on questions of narrative theory. Flaubert’s Madame Bovary you should look for a collection of essays or a single book which aims to provide an introductory overview. London: University of California Press. Robert Partial Magic: The Novel as Self-Conscious Genre. If you want to pursue your reading further. (London: Leicester University Press. An excellent introduction to the theory of narratology using a wide range of international texts. Hoffman. Other recommended books Alter. 1989) [ISBN 0-415-04294-1 (pbk)]. *Bakhtin. (London: Cape. *Auerbach. NJ: Princeton University Press. 1953) [ISBN 0-691-01269-5 (pbk)]. Barthes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Novel Notes 16 .

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

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

and the ‘war of ideas’ in which her novels engage. 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.Chapter 1: Section A author study: Jane Austen If we follow the logic of this approach. 19 . tacit agreements had been reached enabling both readers and writers to understand something reasonably specific by the term ‘novel’. 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. 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. you might think about ways in which Mansfield Park and Persuasion might be described as ‘political’. was printed in 1811. the charges are potentially seriously damaging: living in one of the most turbulent periods in British and European history. has changed both the nature of the questions asked of the novels and. If this seems self-evident and redundant to modern readers. the French Revolution (1789). that they are politically reactionary and that Austen is an apologist for the male ideology of female subordination. 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. Debates about literary reputations are. of course. by the beginning of the nineteenth century. the generic boundaries between various kinds of prose fiction and other sorts of writing were by no means concrete or widely agreed. To what extent is ‘narrowness’ a relative rather than an absolute term. then it is worth remembering that Austen was writing after a period of at least a hundred years of experiment in prose fiction. say. In what ways does the larger world of ‘history’ make itself felt in the novels? How fruitful is the suggestion that both novels are primarily concerned with the state of a nation felt to be in transition if not crisis? Austen and the novel When Austen’s first-published novel. there are some dangers in simply ‘placing’ Austen’s novels in relation to. 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. Austen writes about the passionless love affairs of the gentry. Because the relationship between ‘history’ and novels is always a complex one. That Austen was able to categorise her novel with such confidence is an indication that. but it is important to consider the specifics of the controversy over Austen. the kinds of answers given in return. Nevertheless. Sense and Sensibility. 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. the very stuff of literary history. However. Thus. and because her central concern is the marriage of her heroines. Add to this the criticisms that the novels endorse a class-obsessed snobbery. or the battles of Trafalgar (1805) and Waterloo (1815). its title page carried the subtitle ‘A Novel’. it is noteworthy that a shift in the orientation of critical approaches to Austen. Because we are primarily concerned with Austen the novelist. a new Austen has emerged as critics have sought to recover the historical specificity of the novels’ concerns. and we have yet more reasons to question Austen’s reputation. During the early decades of the eighteenth century. which occurred in the 1970s.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Novel Notes 26 .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Novel Notes 48 .

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

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

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

The Novel

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

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

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

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Chapter 4: Section B topic study: post-modernism

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

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

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

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The Novel

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Novel Notes 58 .

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

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

Notes Notes 61 .

The Novel Notes 62 .

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