The Novel

BA English

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

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

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

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

BA and Diploma in English

Correction

033E070 The Novel
December 2008: First correction

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

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

.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Novel Notes 16 .

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

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

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

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

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. Notions of maturity and development in treatments of writers’ careers are not always reliable. 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. Having prepared the ground with succinct summary. 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. Chapter VI begins with the narrator setting the scene for a dinner-table discussion at Mansfield Park. The latter is particularly helpful because its demonstrates Austen’s inheritance from women writers like Charlotte Lennox and Fanny Burney. then you might also consult Poovey (1984) and/or Johnson (1988) and Kirkham (1983). Austen is clearly as much concerned in Mansfield Park with the meaning of certain key words (abstract nouns in particular) as she is in her earlier novels. however. If you are interested in debates about Austen’s feminism. That said. Mansfield Park: the rhetoric of realism Mansfield Park is the first of what for many readers are Austen’s three most successful and ‘mature’ novels (to be followed by Emma and Persuasion). 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’. Make a list of some key words/concepts that you consider important in Mansfield Park. It might be argued. it is reasonable to view Mansfield Park as technically more accomplished than the novels first drafted a decade earlier (Sense and Sensibility. you may find it useful to consult Bradbrook (1967) and Spencer (1986). Austen’s handling of a narrative point of view and her ability to make apparently ordinary and mundane events carry the broader burdens of her most serious concerns. Austen has Rushworth repeat his buzzwords in a comically absurd way: It wants improvement. I never saw a place that wanted so much improvement in my life. beyond anything. 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. Similarly.Chapter 1: Section A author study: Jane Austen deploying familiar narrative techniques in new ways. Austen. but Austen seems keen to express much more than Rushworth’s mercenary views here. as well as explicit ones like the antithesis between propriety and impropriety. ma’am. 21 . To confirm the point. Northanger Abbey and Pride and Prejudice). typically. You might want to think about implied oppositions like that between innovation and tradition. however. 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. 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. How central and how intrusive are such oppositions in the novel? Now reread Chapter VI of the first volume.

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

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

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

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

The Novel Notes 26 .

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

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

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

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

by depicting particular types of people. Balzac was at a Parisian café with some friends. when he suddenly interrupted the conversation and said ‘Yes. by choosing the principal events of society. 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. but let’s talk about something more important. 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. To what extent does Balzac’s description of things serve as indexes to the inner lives of characters? 31 . In 1833.Chapter 2: Section A author study: Honoré de Balzac (Eugénie Grandet and Old Goriot) The Human Comedy cycle Before we consider in detail the novels Eugénie Grandet and Old Goriot let us look first at the larger framework of The Human Comedy. One of the most famous stories about him concerns Eugénie Grandet – both the novel and the character who gives it its title. at the time when he was writing Eugénie Grandet. and the way the author describes interiors and landscapes. and he sought to describe all areas of social life – urban. Scenes of Provincial Life and Scenes of Parisian Life. This was part of Balzac’s original scheme. The three Scenes were yoked under the general title The Human Comedy in 1841. that of manners and customs. I would perhaps manage to write the history that so many historians forget to write. all this is very interesting. They were debating the nature of French provincial society. as indeed some of his characters were based on real people. 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. provincial and rural. and as a novelist he was concerned not so much with making stories as with providing an accurate account for his contemporaries of the kind of society in which they were living. by bringing together the main products of the passions. Balzac’s aim for this vast. and the way he juxtaposed life in the capital with life in the provinces was of particular interest to the contemporary reader. ‘Comédie’ in French denotes drama or theatre. yes. This Realism has inspired many French critics and scholars to try to map his fictional worlds against actual French locations. Both Eugénie Grandet and Old Goriot appeared as part of Scenes of Private Life. He went on to say that his aim was ‘to create a world with its own parish registers’. In the preface to Eugénie Grandet in 1833. subdivided into three groups: Scenes of Private Life. In 1842. His descriptions of the provinces in the 1820s were often based on real places. In the French editions there is much detailed information in the introductions and notes about which town Balzac is actually referring to. 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. He wanted to depict the different facets of French cultural life as realistically as possible. His novels were regarded as compellingly written narratives with strong characters and humour and as social documents. 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. ambitious project was to echo Dante’s Divine Comedy (begun about 1307). than the world in which he was actually living. Eugénie Grandet and Old Goriot were first published as parts of a 12-volume series entitled Studies of Nineteenth-century Manners. more interesting. in his famous preface to The Human Comedy. by composing types by bringing together features from several different individuals. In his pursuit of ‘real life’ Balzac researched his novels.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Novel Notes 48 .

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

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

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

The Novel

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

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

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

52

Chapter 4: Section B topic study: post-modernism

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

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

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

53

The Novel

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

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

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

54

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

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

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

The Novel Notes 58 .

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

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

Notes Notes 61 .

The Novel Notes 62 .

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

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful