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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Novel Notes 16 .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Novel Notes 26 .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

of course. or even Pip Lejour and Effingham Cooper. Miranda. 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’. It tends to ‘domesticate’ many of the genre’s established conventions. Possession. vampires and monsters survive only metaphorically. Clegg too is an orphan in the Fowles novel. Modern Gothic usually has a surface realism that allows the reader to suspend disbelief in the face of apparently extreme events and situations. To what extent are Clegg and Hannah ‘mad’ or simply extremely clever or manipulative? In terms of the physical settings of the novels. note how the architectural conventions of earlier Gothic return. 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’. as in the case of Clegg or Gerald Scottow. voyeurism and sado-masochism recur in the work of Murdoch and Fowles. 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. Although The Unicorn is set among ‘the gentry’.The Novel figure. for instance. What uses does Murdoch’s novel make of the architecture of the great house? Suspense and horror. including incest (hinted at in Hannah’s marriage to her cousin). The ‘domestication’ of modern Gothic relates to one of its most important insights. most modern Gothic – like The Collector – prefers a more ordinary social milieu than the religious orders or aristocracy favoured by Romantic Gothic. the often unambiguously supernatural aspect of earlier Gothic disappears. While Clegg’s house is not to be compared in grandeur with the castles and monasteries of Romantic Gothic. violence of manifold kinds and sexual ‘deviancy’. is transformed into obsession. including kidnap and imprisonment – mental as well as physical. so that settings which are traditionally distanced in time or space are so now only vestigially or symbolically. What factors make Clegg appear so ordinary? Most obviously. as in Romantic Gothic. once a priest’s hole. too. between contemporary Gothic and its earlier forms. that the everyday and the ‘normal’ may be sources of horror and terror quite as potent as anything conceived of by earlier Gothic. that functions as a kind of dungeon. Each behaves ‘monstrously’ without ever threatening to become non-human. What attitudes do Fowles and Murdoch invite us to take towards ‘deviant’ sexuality? To what extent are they challenging the dominant discourses about sexuality current before 1960? Can these novels be considered ‘permissive’ on the issue of sexuality? But there are important differences. within a psychologically realistic framework. like them it is very old (built in 1625). In contemporary Gothic. it is isolated. Many earlier Gothic texts focus on orphan figures and. who recalls the protagonist in James’ The Turn of the Screw. Finally. so characteristic of earlier Gothic. In certain respects Clegg is quite ordinary. ghosts. domestic violence can 42 . are heightened in contemporary equivalents like The Collector and The Unicorn by similar plot conventions. it is claustrophobic and has a basement room.

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

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

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

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

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

The Novel Notes 48 .

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Novel Notes 58 .

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

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

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The Novel Notes 62 .

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