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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1978) [ISBN 0-85036-236-9 (pbk)]. Georg (1920) The Theory of the Novel. Joseph Peter On Realism. Topic study: varieties of realism (secondary reading on realism and the novel). Phelps. Stevenson. books like Mikhail Bakhtin’s The Dialogic Imagination and Ian Watt’s The Rise of the Novel). *Watt. Gilbert A Short Guide to the World Novel. Ian (1957) The Rise of The Novel. Randall Modernist Fiction: An Introduction. Topic study: the epistolary novel (suggested text: Laclos’ Les Liaisons Dangereuses or Burney’s Evelina). Spencer. (Oxford: Blackwell. Brian Postmodernist Fiction. (London: Virago.e. 1966) [ISBN 0195007735 (pbk)]. Scholes. (Baltimore. Michael. 1988) [ISBN 0415008697 (pbk)]. (London: Pimlico. Author study: Cervantes’ Don Quixote and some secondary material. Studies in Defoe. 1987) [ISBN 0-8018-3746-4 (pbk]. (London: Routledge. Translated by Hannah and Stanley Mitchell. 1976) [ISBN 0-140-55081-X (pbk)]. Narrative: A Critical Linguistic Introduction. (London: Routledge. Stern. (London: Prentice Hall. the Myth to Modernism. Lukács. Showalter. (Harmondsworth: Penguin. Weeks 1–2: Background reading on theories of the novel and debates about its origins (i. Topic study: narrative voice and perspective (suggested text James’ The Spoils of Poynton and some secondary material). Michael The Origins of the English Novel 1660–1740. * 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. 0-631-13916-8 (pbk)].The Novel Lukács. 2000) [ISBN 0712664270 (pbk)]. Weeks 3–4: Week 5: Week 6: Weeks 7–8: Week 11: Week 12: Weeks 9–10: Author study: Balzac’s Eugénie Grandet and Old Goriot. Elaine (1977) A Literature of Their Own. British Women Novelists from Brontë to Lessing. 6 . 1984) [ISBN 0-86068-285-4 (pbk)]. a Historico–Philosophic Essay on the Forms of Great Epic Literature. Jane The Rise of the Woman Novelist: From Aphra Behn to Jane Austen. (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. McKeon. 1973) [ISBN 0-7100-7379]. Patricia Metafiction: The Theory and Practice of Self-Conscious Fiction (London: Routledge. 1986) [ISBN 0-631-13915-X (hbk). A highly influential study of the generic and sociological influences which gave rise to the novel. Author study: Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park and Persuasion. nonEurocentric study of the development of the novel in world culture. (Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1989) [ISBN 0-415-04513-4]. Georg (1955) The Historical Novel. Toolan. 1984) [ISBN 0415030064 (pbk)]. Robert and Robert Kellogg The Nature of Narrative. London: Johns Hopkins University Press. 1988) [ISBN 0-415-00765-8]. McHale. Richardson and Fielding. (London: Merlin. Translated by Anna Bostock. (London: Routledge. Waugh. Topic study: the genesis of the novel as a form (suggested text: Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe). An extensively researched. 1997) revised edition [ISBN 013837659X (pbk)].

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Novel Notes 16 .

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

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

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

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

Northanger Abbey and Pride and Prejudice). Similarly. we are left in little doubt that Rushworth wants to ‘improve’ out of a fidelity to fashion rather than from any more considered impulse. That said. then you might also consult Poovey (1984) and/or Johnson (1988) and Kirkham (1983).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. make her as skilled a novelist as any in a century that produced the great ‘classics’ of European realism. as well as explicit ones like the antithesis between propriety and impropriety. however. and helps us to understand the particular social pressures that helped to shape the tradition of didactic fiction for women. shows us the fuller significance of these details by having Rushworth himself discuss ‘improvement’ in such a way as simultaneously to further our sense of his rather vacuous mind and to suggest the broader resonance of the topic of estate improvements. Austen is clearly as much concerned in Mansfield Park with the meaning of certain key words (abstract nouns in particular) as she is in her earlier novels. that the novel’s greater success is partly a result of its ability to present abstractions in concrete form. beyond anything. typically. It might be argued. Having prepared the ground with succinct summary. you may find it useful to consult Bradbrook (1967) and Spencer (1986). Thus the sometimes jarringly obvious antitheses of the kind found in Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice have not altogether disappeared in Mansfield Park but are handled with much greater subtlety. Notions of maturity and development in treatments of writers’ careers are not always reliable. Thus we are told that Mr Rushworth has just returned from a friend’s who has ‘had his grounds laid out by an improver’ and that Rushworth is now ‘eager to be improving his own place in the same way’. Make a list of some key words/concepts that you consider important in Mansfield Park. 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. I never saw a place that wanted so much improvement in my life. 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 . The latter is particularly helpful because its demonstrates Austen’s inheritance from women writers like Charlotte Lennox and Fanny Burney. Austen. Chapter VI begins with the narrator setting the scene for a dinner-table discussion at Mansfield Park. Austen’s handling of a narrative point of view and her ability to make apparently ordinary and mundane events carry the broader burdens of her most serious concerns. ma’am. Austen has Rushworth repeat his buzzwords in a comically absurd way: It wants improvement. however. it is reasonable to view Mansfield Park as technically more accomplished than the novels first drafted a decade earlier (Sense and Sensibility. In order to gain a sense of Austen’s relation to eighteenth-century novel traditions. 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. To confirm the point. since they often presuppose a progression that is by no means a given and impose a false sense of teleology. How central and how intrusive are such oppositions in the novel? Now reread Chapter VI of the first volume. You might want to think about implied oppositions like that between innovation and tradition. If you are interested in debates about Austen’s feminism.

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

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

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

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

The Novel Notes 26 .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Novel Notes 48 .

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

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

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

The Novel

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

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

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

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Chapter 4: Section B topic study: post-modernism

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

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

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

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The Novel

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Novel Notes 58 .

Appendix: Sample examination paper Appendix Sample examination paper Answer three questions.’ (ITALO CALVINO. Don Quixote) Discuss this quotation with reference to one novelist you have studied. in this examination or in any other Advanced level unit examination. discuss how the social and economic conditions of the eighteenth century affected the rise of the novel.’ (MIGUEL DE CERVANTES. letters. that a single man in possession of a good fortune. 10. Section B Answers in this section must refer to the work of at least two different writers. ‘It is truth universally acknowledged. allusions to other novels. whether large or small. 11. 2. If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller) Discuss the significance of narrational self-consciousness in the work of one novelist you have studied.’ (LAURENCE STERNE. the double. ‘Every novel worthy of the name is like another planet. Discuss the significance of one of the following in the work of one novelist you have studied: embedded narratives. Pride and Prejudice) Discuss the significance of irony in one author you have studied. choosing at least one from each section. 5. 12. 6. 4. Discuss the treatment of one of the following themes in at least two novelists you have studied: forbidden love. Section A 1. With reference to two or more writers. must be in want of a wife. to remind you of one thing.’ Discuss. ‘The novel begins in a railway station…a cloud of smoke hides the first part of the paragraph. and to inform you of another.’ Discuss this statement with reference to the work of one novelist you have studied.’ (JANE AUSTEN. murder. ‘The total subordination of the plot to the pattern of the autobiographical memoir is a defiant assertion of the primacy of individual experience. The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy) Discuss the significance of intrusive narrators in the work of one novelist you have read. 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. dialogue. childhood. which has its own laws just as it has its own flora and fauna. 59 . 8. 9. ‘We novelists are the examining magistrates of men and their passions. Discuss the significance of endings in the work of one novelist you have studied. 7. 13. ‘I have dropped the curtain over this scene for a minute. Explain how the formal innovations of any two or more novelists you have studied had a significant impact on the form as a whole.’ (EMILE ZOLA) Discuss how one novelist you have studied uses their work to examine social problems. 3. with reference to one novelist you have read. alienation. ‘What is character but the determination of incident? What is incident but the illustration of character?’ (HENRY JAMES) Discuss the relationship between character and incident in the work of one novelist you have studied.

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

Notes Notes 61 .

The Novel Notes 62 .

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