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.

The External System Publications Office University of London Stewart House, Ground Floor 32 Russell Square London WC1B 5DN United Kingdom www.londonexternal.ac.uk

Published by: University of London Press © University of London 2002. Printed by: Central Printing Service, University of London, England

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.

.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Novel Notes 16 .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.Chapter 1: Section A author study: Jane Austen Nevertheless. dialogue. Consider the relationship between any two of Austen’s novels and aspects of either eighteenth. 25 . Consider the significance of one of the following in Austen’s fiction: place. Consider Austen’s handling of the relationship between the individual and society. How useful is the term ‘realism’ in relation to Austen’s fiction? 3. To what extent. 2. and the events around Louisa’s fall in Chapter XII. irony. Learning outcomes By the end of this chapter. you might pursue your reading of Persuasion further so as to clarify a broader understanding of the novel. does Austen share with other novelists since Cervantes an almost obsessive concern with epistemological questions? What kinds of family resemblances are there between Austen’s heroines and the protagonists of other nineteenth. you might consider how Austen’s fiction relates to novels that appear otherwise quite different. 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’.or nineteenth-century fiction. for example. and how such ‘realism’ relates to other novels and novelistic traditions. having studied the essential reading and some of the recommended critical texts. point of view. Sample essay questions 1. Is ‘persuasion’ finally seen to be a good or a bad thing in the novel? You might find it useful to pay especial attention to Wentworth’s use of the metaphor of the nut in Chapter X. 4.and twentieth-century novels? In these and other ways your study of Austen might easily broaden out into a consideration of a topic study that would enable you to answer a question in Section B of the examination paper.

The Novel Notes 26 .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

to show a moral sewer of Paris that gives the effect of a disgusting sore’. ‘It was necessary in order to be complete. To what extent can we read Eugénie Grandet and Old Goriot as the stories of rebellion by children against their parents? 38 . 2.The Novel Learning outcomes By the end of this chapter and the relevant reading. 3. 4. Balzac wrote. Sample essay questions 1. Discuss the notion of social class in Balzac’s novels. 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. especially those relating to moral. What contrast does Balzac make between the city and the provinces? Discuss with reference to at least two novels. you should be able to: • • • • • • • demonstrate familiarity with some of the key events in French cultural history in the nineteenth century and relate them to the historical settings of Balzac’s novels situate Eugénie Grandet and Old Goriot within the larger scheme of The Human Comedy define and apply the term ‘Realism’ to Balzac’s writing identify some of the ways in which structure is provided by characterisation trace the development of certain themes in Balzac’s novels. In 1834. 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Novel Notes 48 .

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

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

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

The Novel

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

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

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

52

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

53

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?

54

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

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

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

The Novel Notes 58 .

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

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

Notes Notes 61 .

The Novel Notes 62 .

............................................................. Date: ............................................................ ........................................... Please send your comments on this form (or a photocopy of it) to: Publishing Manager........... ............................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... please take the time to complete and return this form.................................................................................. Please continue on additional sheets if necessary.............................................................................................................................................................. ......................................................................................................... Such feedback from students helps us in our effort to improve the materials produced for the External System............................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... Address .......................................................................................................... ... ......................................................................................... If you have any comments about this guide............ ......................................... Name ............................................ 32 Russell Square................................................................................................................... .......................................... .........................................................................................................................................................).......................................................................................... ................ .............................................................. ................................................................Comment form We welcome any comments you may have on the materials which are sent to you as part of your study pack...... Comments ............................................................................................................................................. For which qualification are you studying? ........................................ External System................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................ Email ....... either general or specific (including corrections..................................... ................................ ......................................... etc................................ ...................................................... Stewart House.......................................... ......................................................... UK...... ............................................................. Student number ..................................................................... ..... London WC1B 5DN............................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................. nonavailability of essential texts.. University of London........................................................................................... ................................................... Title of this subject guide: .........................................................................................