The Novel

BA English

J. Cohen, J. Desmarais, B. Moore-Gilbert J. T. Parnell 2002 0033E070

This guide was prepared for the University of London by: J. Cohen, Phd, Lecturer in English, Goldsmiths College, University of London J. Desmarais, MA, PhD, Lecturer in English and Art History, Departments of English, and Historical and Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths College, University of London B. Moore-Gilbert, MA, DPhil, Reader in English, Goldsmiths College, University of London J.T. Parnell, PhD, Lecturer in English, Goldsmiths College, University of London. This is one of a series of subject guides published by the University. We regret that due to pressure of work the authors are unable to enter into any correspondence relating to, or arising from, the guide. If you have any comments on this subject guide, favourable or unfavourable, please use the form at the back of this guide.

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BA and Diploma in English

Correction

033E070 The Novel
December 2008: First correction

Students should note the following examiners’ changes for the 2009 examinations onwards:

033E070 The novel There is one change to the demands of Section B: ‘Answers in this section should refer to AT LEAST TWO different authors. You may NOT write about an author or text that you have discussed in Section A.’ Thus, students preparing for the examination in this unit should prepare at least six texts by three different authors.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As a guide. [. You will notice that some of the novels in this subject are very long. Although the questions below are framed as essay questions of the kind you are likely to encounter in the examination for this subject. you may want to devise your own questions in order to give focus to your studies. Week 18: Topic study: magic realism (suggested text – Màrquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude). the full bibliographical details for books can be found in the recommended secondary reading in the Introduction to this study guide. the essay/study questions and recommended reading below relate to topics rather than individual texts. One way of doing this is to choose a brief statement of a particular commentator’s thesis and use this as a means of structuring your response. (BAKHTIN) In the light of this quotation. by contrast. knowledge and practice (the future)’. however. compare the presuppositions of epic with those of the early novel.. so you may need more than one week just to read them. but you are free to ignore this advice and adapt questions to suit the novelists and novels you have chosen to work on. That is how it was.Introduction Weeks 13–14: Topic study: modernism and the novel (suggested text — Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway). ‘[In epic] it is memory. that serves as the source and power for the creative impulse. If you are working on a topic not covered in this subject guide. Weeks 16–17: Topic study: modern Gothic (suggested texts – Fowles’ The Collector and Murdoch’s The Unicorn). Adjust your schedule accordingly. but they will help you to gain a fuller sense of the concerns of this subject.. 1 The Iliad or The Odyssey are probably the most easily accessible examples of epic narrative. you can use them as a focus for your studies on a given topic even if you are not intending to write on it. it is impossible to change it: the tradition of the past is sacred. and not knowledge. is determined by experience. Week 15: Author study: Achebe’s Things Fall Apart and some secondary material. Bear in mind. These topics are not the only ones that you might wish to investigate further. Unless given below. The origins and rise of the novel (weeks 1–2) Questions 1.1 7 .] The novel. we have generally specified whether your responses should cover one or more writers. 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. Remember that a bold or contentious claim is more likely to provoke you into thought and a productive counter argument than a bland one. that broad questions about the genre are often most successfully addressed with reference to two or three novels by different writers. Weeks 19–20: Topic study: Post-modernism and the novel (suggested text – Delillo’s White Noise).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Novel Notes 16 .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Novel Notes 26 .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Novel Notes 48 .

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

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

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

The Novel

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

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

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

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Chapter 4: Section B topic study: post-modernism

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

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

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

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?

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

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

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

The Novel Notes 58 .

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

others ruled out. Captain Harville in Persuasion) Discuss the contribution of at least two woman novelists from the eighteenth or nineteenth century to the art of fiction. With reference to the work of two or more novelists you have studied.’ (LEO TOLSTOY.The Novel 14. Curricula for the study of the novel are often organised chronologically. 20. 60 . 16. so that some expectations are rendered plausible. these were all written by men. every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. and elements which would seem strange in another context are made intelligible with the genre. 15. ‘Genre conventions establish a kind of contract between the text and the reader. 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.’ (JANE AUSTEN. 18. Discuss the significance of either satire or parody with reference to two or more novelists you have studied. 17. ‘Happy families are all alike. 19. ‘I do not think I ever opened a book in my life which had not something to say upon woman’s inconstancy…But perhaps you will say.’ Discuss this statement with reference to two or more novelists you have studied. Discuss the contribution to the novel form of two or more novelists who are of neither European nor American origin. Explain how a different system of organisation might be productive with reference to two or more novelists you have studied.

Notes Notes 61 .

The Novel Notes 62 .

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