The Novel

BA English

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

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

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BA and Diploma in English

Correction

033E070 The Novel
December 2008: First correction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1978) [ISBN 0-85036-236-9 (pbk)]. Studies in Defoe. *Watt. 1984) [ISBN 0-86068-285-4 (pbk)]. (Harmondsworth: Penguin. 1966) [ISBN 0195007735 (pbk)]. 1988) [ISBN 0-415-00765-8]. Topic study: varieties of realism (secondary reading on realism and the novel).The Novel Lukács. Stern. Phelps. Jane The Rise of the Woman Novelist: From Aphra Behn to Jane Austen. Spencer. Weeks 1–2: Background reading on theories of the novel and debates about its origins (i. the Myth to Modernism. McKeon. Narrative: A Critical Linguistic Introduction. Robert and Robert Kellogg The Nature of Narrative. 1997) revised edition [ISBN 013837659X (pbk)]. An extensively researched. Toolan. British Women Novelists from Brontë to Lessing. (London: Virago. Georg (1955) The Historical Novel. books like Mikhail Bakhtin’s The Dialogic Imagination and Ian Watt’s The Rise of the Novel). McHale. London: Johns Hopkins University Press. Showalter. Brian Postmodernist Fiction. 1989) [ISBN 0-415-04513-4]. Ian (1957) The Rise of The Novel. 1988) [ISBN 0415008697 (pbk)]. Michael The Origins of the English Novel 1660–1740. 6 . Richardson and Fielding. (Baltimore. Author study: Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park and Persuasion. A highly influential study of the generic and sociological influences which gave rise to the novel. Elaine (1977) A Literature of Their Own. (London: Prentice Hall. (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. (London: Pimlico. Gilbert A Short Guide to the World Novel. Lukács. Stevenson. (Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1984) [ISBN 0415030064 (pbk)]. 1986) [ISBN 0-631-13915-X (hbk). Michael. (London: Routledge. nonEurocentric study of the development of the novel in world culture. 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. 1973) [ISBN 0-7100-7379]. 2000) [ISBN 0712664270 (pbk)]. 1976) [ISBN 0-140-55081-X (pbk)]. (London: Routledge. Georg (1920) The Theory of the Novel. Waugh. 1987) [ISBN 0-8018-3746-4 (pbk]. a Historico–Philosophic Essay on the Forms of Great Epic Literature. Translated by Anna Bostock. 0-631-13916-8 (pbk)]. * Highly recommended Suggested study syllabus Here is a sample 20-week syllabus to give you an idea of how you could structure your own syllabus for this subject. Patricia Metafiction: The Theory and Practice of Self-Conscious Fiction (London: Routledge. Joseph Peter On Realism. Translated by Hannah and Stanley Mitchell. Scholes. Topic study: narrative voice and perspective (suggested text James’ The Spoils of Poynton and some secondary material). Topic study: the genesis of the novel as a form (suggested text: Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe). Randall Modernist Fiction: An Introduction. Author study: Cervantes’ Don Quixote and some secondary material. (London: Routledge. Topic study: the epistolary novel (suggested text: Laclos’ Les Liaisons Dangereuses or Burney’s Evelina). (Oxford: Blackwell. (London: Merlin.e.

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

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

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

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

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

2. McHale. David. the Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination. Showalter. Jane The Rise of the Woman Novelist: From Aphra Behn to Jane Austen. Sandra M. Chapter 5. Spencer. but rather looks for new kinds of order.’ (VIRGINIA WOOLF) In the light of this quotation. 4.’ Consider the view with reference to at least two novelists. consider how and to what end one or more novelists resist traditional narrative structure. John ‘The Literature of Replenishment’ in Hoffman and Murphy (eds) Essentials of the Theory of Fiction. consider at least two women novelists of the eighteenth and/or nineteenth centuries. 2.. time doesn’t exist. ‘Reality doesn’t exist. ‘There is no reason to think that the form of the epic or of the poetic play suit a woman any more than the sentence suits her.’ Discuss with reference to one or more novelists. Suggested reading Hoffman and Murphy (eds) Essentials of the Theory of Fiction. consider the relationship between innovation and tradition in either the ‘modernist’ or the ‘post-colonial’ or the postmodern novel. 12 . British Women Novelists from Brontë to Lessing. With reference to one or more novelist(s). Stevenson. Lodge.] we used to think there was a beginning. Chapter 20. Joseph ‘Spatial Form in Modern Literature’ in Hoffman and Murphy (eds) Essentials of the Theory of Fiction. Gender Questions 1. Brian Postmodernist Fiction. and the Typology of Modern Writing. ‘They’ve changed everything now [. Frank. The novel alone was young enough to be soft in her hands. God was the omniscient author. Chapters 27–29. Randall Modernist Fiction: An Introduction. middle and an end.’ (RONALD SUKENICK) Discuss with reference to one or more novelists. ‘Modern fiction does not dispense with the idea of coherence. Suggested reading Barth. Elaine A Literature of Their Own. and Susan Gubar The Madwoman in the Attic. The Modes of Modern Writing: Metaphor. personality doesn’t exist. But all the older forms of literature had hardened and set by the time she became a writer.The Novel Modernist and postmodernist fiction Questions 1. Metonymy. Gilbert.. ‘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. now no one knows the plot. but he died. 3. ‘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.’ (THOMAS HARDY) In the light of this quotation.

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

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

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

The Novel Notes 16 .

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

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

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

Familiar equally with Richardson’s refinements of the epistolary form and Fielding’s use of the intrusive third-person narrative voice. in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature. his sense that Austen’s realism is a key characteristic of her fiction is one that has been shared by many recent commentators. part of Austen’s impressive technical achievement was to create a sense of ‘reality’ by 20 . arising from the consideration of minds. is.The Novel Just when such agreements became general has been much debated.e. presentation of events in which the characters speak and act without noticeable or intrusive authorial intervention) with great subtlety. Interestingly. and what some modern critics have ignored in various condemnations of ‘realism’. the ‘realism’ that Scott finds in Austen is not a naïve and slavish mimeticism (i. perhaps. While Scott’s critical tenets differ markedly from those of modern critics and readers. imitation). Don Quixote and ending with late twentieth-century fiction. and topics of conversation. Walter Scott described Austen as an exemplary practitioner of a new realism in prose fiction. Austen blends what has come to be called ‘telling’ (direct commentary and judgement from the narrative ‘voice’) and ‘showing’ (the scenic. the liveliest effusions of wit and humour are conveyed to the world in the best chosen language. then the ensuing list of features of the periodical essay. a realism which he saw as peculiar to the novel as it was developing in the early nineteenth century. or dramatic. since the reader generally chooses whether or not to suspend his or her disbelief. which no longer concern any one living’. manners and sentiments greatly above our own’. Such essays are condemned for offering ‘improbable circumstances. against which Austen seeks to define the ‘novel’. What Scott recognises here. unnatural characters. say. Referring approvingly to particular novels by Fanny Burney and Maria Edgeworth. beginning with. 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. they can often give the impression that they are ‘slices of life’ rather than carefully contrived fictions. if ever. how useful and comprehensive is Austen’s definition? Austen’s ‘realism’ In his review of Emma in 1815. but rather a skilful presentation of characters from ‘ordinary walks of life’ presented ‘with such spirit and originality. Even so. It might be argued that this is largely a matter of reader response. 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). Although Austen’s own novels are no less didactic or conventional than those of her eighteenth-century predecessors. is that novelistic realism rarely. Retrospectively. 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. more telling. 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. the happiest delineation of its varieties. aspires to offer ‘reality’ in unmediated form. If this is a little vague. 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.

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

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

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

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

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

The Novel Notes 26 .

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

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

Guildford: Princeton University Press. They describe the rationale behind the large project of The Human Comedy and Balzac’s place within the nineteenth-century tradition of Realist literature. Translated by Lorenzo O’Rourke. 1973) [ISBN 0838316700].Chapter 2: Section A author study: Honoré de Balzac (Eugénie Grandet and Old Goriot) Stowe. Nationalisation of church property (2 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.J. 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. mystery and melodrama themes (the opposition between Paris and the provinces. whereas Old Goriot is set in 1819–1820. William W. the motif of money. genre. The core texts belong to Honoré de Balzac’s (1799–1850) cycle of novels collectively issued under the generic title of The Human Comedy (La Comédie humaine). his work has generated an enormous amount of criticism. he is writing with the benefit of hindsight. just after Napoleon’s downfall. The sections thereafter deal with the separate issues of: • • • • • characterisation (Balzac’s use of contrast. N. France’s ancient provinces divided into administrative départements (12 November 1789). A Critical Study. the relationship between parents and children) narrative voice language. they should represent a comprehensive picture of the social and moral history of France in the early nineteenth century. Declaration of the Rights of Man (27 August 1789). Taine. for instance. The bibliographies above represent a selection of some of the more accessible secondary material written in English. The first two sections below provide a contextual discussion of Balzac. 1983) [ISBN 0691065675]. Balzac’s aim was that. The chapter concludes with a list of learning outcomes and sample examination questions. the character of Vautrin) sensation. Civil Constitution of the Clergy (12 July 1790). (Princeton. in Old Goriot. As you might expect of such a prolific author. Hyppolite Balzac. describes the social and political changes that took place between the French Revolution in 1789 and the July Revolution of 1830. 29 . and so you should make sure that you understand some of the important events in late-eighteenth.. taken together. 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). In Eugénie Grandet we see Balzac as a commentator on contemporary events. Background Balzac documented the life of his times in his novels. Balzac. (New York: Haskell House. James and the Realistic Novel.

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

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

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

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

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

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

to sell his gold for paper money. who looked to some of his novels as practical guides to understanding the complex notions of stocks. The ravings of the old noodle merchant contain painful truths. 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. As a social Realist. unlike Goriot. In Eugène de Rastignac he finds an alternative substitute son. is spurned by his daughters who unfeelingly squander his gifts in order to achieve a higher social standing. like Shakespeare’s King Lear. He was very interested in money. he is incapable of loving his wife and daughter more than his wealth and power. Balzac lays bare in many of his novels the workings of a society increasingly dominated by commercial interests and the lustre of money. There are many similarities between the story of King Lear and Old Goriot. 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. 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 monomania of Grandet is similarly overwhelming. The ‘seven boarders were Madame Vauquer’s spoiled children. and the novel describes his obsession with wealth and his efforts to maximise profit at the expense of human life. the miser Grandet takes on some of the characteristics of the gold he covets. Flaubert and Guy de Maupassant. but by the rich in the towns. Look at the final scenes where Goriot is slowly dying.’ he says to his daughter. shares and equity. is the real subject of all Balzac’s novels. which reveal to Eugène de Rastignac the imperfect but real nature of society. knowing when.’ (Chapter 5) By what particular means does Balzac represent parental authority? How does the story of Old Goriot differ from Shakespeare’s King Lear? Are these moral tales? What do we learn through the characters of Eugène de Rastignac and Eugénie? Narrative voice A major feature of Balzac is the extent to which he intervenes as author and narrator in his novels to address the reader.The Novel Money The exuberance of the money-making process. 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. Balzac did not cultivate a 36 . and this allows him to speculate – he is extremely good at this. sorts and grades them in terms of how much they pay or are worth. Goriot. telling us what to think and how to read. Through his purchase of such land Grandet makes his fortune. ‘Take good care of everything. In Eugénie Grandet. Both stories end tragically. ‘You will have to account to me for all of it in the next world. With the money he has acquired through the buying-up of land Grandet acquires government stock. Unlike his contemporaries. Grandet makes a lot of money by understanding the way society works. The opening description of Madame Vauquer’s boarders in Old Goriot. for example. Even on his deathbed he refuses to renounce his materialism. it can be argued. and we are given extensive descriptions of financial transactions. for example. as were his readers. but.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ostensibly.Chapter 3: Section B topic study: modern Gothic be as sickening as any of the torture scenes in Romantic Gothic. that he is insane: I kept remembering how people in Lewes seemed to look at me sometimes. At one point in her diary. which on one level he undoubtedly is. Perhaps the most important reason for this is the way that Clegg is portrayed not simply as a ‘perverse’ individual. How significant is this pattern of self-construction? 43 . Collect some examples of Clegg’s behaviour which seem to you particularly reprehensible. and family and friends can be emotional ‘vampires’. great stress is laid upon the way that Clegg constructs his self-image and thus his sense of identity. They all knew I was mad. Clegg admits: ‘I used to think of stories where I met her. Clegg is often vile. Miranda writes about the working-class protagonists of celebrated 1950s writers like John Braine and Alan Sillitoe. married her and all that’. like the people in that doctor’s waiting-room. it seems quite easy to place Clegg in traditional moral terms. too. an apparently innocuous neighbour or friend may become a ‘monster’ (consider the current spate of child-abuse scandals). On Clegg’s trip to Lewes after his victim’s death. When plotting the kidnap. This seems to provide a clue about Fowles’ real interest in this novel. after all. the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’. or the ‘sane’ and the ‘mad’. by translating his experience into and out of the narrative forms of the mass media culture which surrounds him. It is similarly tempting to dismiss Clegg as simply mad. but as representative – even stereotypically so – of a variety of attitudes which Fowles sees as characteristic of ‘mainstream society’. His articulation of linguistic cliché underlines his reproduction of stereotypical forms of behaviour which obviously originate in the society outside him. describes him as ‘possessed. did things she admired. or subjected to. what narratives does Clegg employ? Collect other examples of Clegg’s self-perception in terms of the narratives of the ‘popular’ media. a number of factors prevent the reader from responding so simply. Before actually meeting Miranda. She finds Sillitoe’s Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1959) particularly disquieting and criticises the author in the following terms: ‘Perhaps Alan Sillitoe wanted to attack the society that produces such people. Miranda. certainly. quite out of his own control’. but by the way that society has helped to ‘produce’ Clegg’s behaviour. the social order which language both constructs and embodies? This lack of subjectivity is partly evident in Clegg’s lack of imagination and the automatic way that he so often responds to Miranda. But despite the invitation to judge Clegg in such black and white terms. it occurs to him. where does it come from? What is Miranda’s view of his language? How might one argue that. for instance. The issue is highlighted by Clegg’s use of language. rather than language bestowing upon Clegg autonomy and subjectivity. But he doesn’t make it clear’. it seems rather to confirm him as ‘subject’ – in the sense of being subject to. he is fascinated not so much by the pathology of a single individual. For example. Even in his day-to-day treatment of her. his kidnapping and imprisonment of Miranda leads directly to her death. 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’. What kind of language does Clegg use? Is it ‘original’ to him? If not.

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

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

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

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

The Novel Notes 48 .

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

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

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

The Novel

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

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

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

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Chapter 4: Section B topic study: post-modernism

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

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

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

53

The Novel

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Novel Notes 58 .

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

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

Notes Notes 61 .

The Novel Notes 62 .

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