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

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

for the purposes of this subject. This subject guide focuses on novels from the eighteenth century to the present. You may want to think about what this list.Introduction Introduction This subject. 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. a ‘canon’ of sorts. American.e.) 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. as it passed through time).and nineteenth-century realist novels. Some of this subject’s main objectives will be to help you to: • gain an understanding of the development of the novel as a form of literary production from its beginnings to the present day and in relation to its social and literary contexts explore how individual novelists employ specific literary techniques in order to serve their particular narrative strategies compare how different authors have used the novel to address recurrent thematic concerns and expanded the possibilities of the form in different ways study contemporary critical debates about the novel through an engagement with secondary sources engage with the issues involved in canon formation. early twentieth-century modernist novels and some post-modern fiction. written in prose. You are also recommended to study authors from across the British. The following list is by no means exhaustive. but you should not feel limited by this selection. When studying the earlier history of the genre. it is a selection of important and influential novels you may care to study. (Self-assessment procedures are discussed in the Handbook. the term will be restricted to fictional works. Bear in mind that you will want to explore the novel both synchronically (i. You should try to read at least some of the novels from this list. European and non-Western traditions. • • • • 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 novel. of sufficient length to be deemed ‘novels’. is a Group B advanced unit. includes and what it leaves out. the selection of texts will inevitably be more limited to European novels. but you are allowed to study and write on earlier material where relevant. as it exists at a given moment without reference to its past) and diachronically (i. 1 .e. 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Novel Notes 16 .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Novel Notes 26 .

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

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

in Old Goriot. mystery and melodrama themes (the opposition between Paris and the provinces. genre. describes the social and political changes that took place between the French Revolution in 1789 and the July Revolution of 1830. taken together. just after Napoleon’s downfall. France’s ancient provinces divided into administrative départements (12 November 1789). The sections thereafter deal with the separate issues of: • • • • • characterisation (Balzac’s use of contrast. the motif of money. In Eugénie Grandet we see Balzac as a commentator on contemporary events. Familiarise yourself with some of the following key events in the history of France about which Balzac expected his readers to be well informed: • • • • • Fall of the Bastille in Paris (14 July 1789). published in 17 volumes between 1842 and 1848. Balzac. William W. Guildford: Princeton University Press. James and the Realistic Novel. Nationalisation of church property (2 November 1789). and so you should make sure that you understand some of the important events in late-eighteenth.J. As you might expect of such a prolific author. 1973) [ISBN 0838316700]. The chapter concludes with a list of learning outcomes and sample examination questions. Taine. the relationship between parents and children) narrative voice language. 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). Background Balzac documented the life of his times in his novels.. Declaration of the Rights of Man (27 August 1789). Hyppolite Balzac. Translated by Lorenzo O’Rourke. he is writing with the benefit of hindsight. They describe the rationale behind the large project of The Human Comedy and Balzac’s place within the nineteenth-century tradition of Realist literature. 1983) [ISBN 0691065675]. his work has generated an enormous amount of criticism. Civil Constitution of the Clergy (12 July 1790). A Critical Study. 29 . they should represent a comprehensive picture of the social and moral history of France in the early nineteenth century. The bibliographies above represent a selection of some of the more accessible secondary material written in English. * 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. (Princeton. N.Chapter 2: Section A author study: Honoré de Balzac (Eugénie Grandet and Old Goriot) Stowe. the character of Vautrin) sensation. (New York: Haskell House. The first two sections below provide a contextual discussion of Balzac. whereas Old Goriot is set in 1819–1820. Balzac’s aim was that. for instance.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.

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

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

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

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

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

How does the sensation. Themes Paris and the provinces The opposition between the city and the country goes back at least as far as the Alexandrian poets of the third century BC. and in Eugénie Grandet. and the characters in this novel who resurface across The Human Comedy cycle include Anastasie Restaud. The combination of these elements accounted for the contemporary popular appeal of Old Goriot. and that is his innovative use of recurrent characters. The difference between life in the capital and life in the provinces becomes a common theme in their novels. for example. In many ways. but it also became a preoccupation of French Realist writers and artists in the nineteenth century. Vautrin appears in several novels. including Balzac. How does Balzac establish a tension between the different districts of Saint Marceau and Saint Germain in Old Goriot? What kind of appeal would his interest in provincial life have for the contemporary reader? How does Balzac characterise the existence of city dwellers in particular? How do other Realist writers of the period depict modern city life? 35 . throughout the novel? Make a list of instances where Vautrin is seen though the eyes of others and where his character makes a more direct appeal to us through his own speech and action. mystery and melodrama surrounding the lives of these two characters contrast with the realistic portrayal of Rastignac and the Maison Vauquer? How does Balzac gradually build a picture of Vautrin. genre. Make some notes on the way Paris and the provinces are portrayed in the novels. Charles Grandet arrives at Saumur from the capital and looks down his nose at his provincial relatives. genre. Consider the aura of mystery that surrounds both these characters at the opening of the story. Paris itself is subdivided into rich and poor areas. mystery and melodrama. including Lost Illusions (Illusions Perdues) and The Splendours and Miseries of Courtesans (Splendeurs et Misères des Courtisanes). In Old Goriot. They were interested in the effects of industrialisation and technology on traditional modes of life. Balzac is conducting an experiment through his fiction. genre. we the readers are able to witness the effects of the environment on the individual.Chapter 2: Section A author study: Honoré de Balzac (Eugénie Grandet and Old Goriot) Sensation. although one critic observed that Balzac’s ‘passion for truth was often in conflict with his lust for marvels’. 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. and then compare this with the sensational and melodramatic death of Goriot and the arrest of Vautrin later on. By placing provincial characters in the city and urban types in the provinces. and the role played by Paris as the cultural and economic centre of France. Do you agree with this comment that there is a conflict between these two tendencies. Madame de Bauséant and Rastignac. Gustave Flaubert and Zola. a young man from the provinces. one of his most celebrated characters. and you should think about the way that Balzac weaves together Realism and sensation. In Old Goriot. mystery and melodrama The deathbed scenes in the novels are sites for melodrama. for example. or does Balzac effect a successful compromise? Look carefully at the portrayal of the characters of Goriot and Vautrin. becomes corrupted by Paris. He first employed this technique in Old Goriot. Rastignac.

The opening description of Madame Vauquer’s boarders in Old Goriot. Balzac did not cultivate a 36 . he is incapable of loving his wife and daughter more than his wealth and power. Flaubert and Guy de Maupassant. Through his purchase of such land Grandet makes his fortune. but. knowing when. but by the rich in the towns. to sell his gold for paper money. As a social Realist. for example. ‘You will have to account to me for all of it in the next world. In Eugénie Grandet.The Novel Money The exuberance of the money-making process. telling us what to think and how to read. With the money he has acquired through the buying-up of land Grandet acquires government stock.’ (Chapter 5) By what particular means does Balzac represent parental authority? How does the story of Old Goriot differ from Shakespeare’s King Lear? Are these moral tales? What do we learn through the characters of Eugène de Rastignac and Eugénie? Narrative voice A major feature of Balzac is the extent to which he intervenes as author and narrator in his novels to address the reader. The theme of money is explored in the greatest detail in Eugénie Grandet and the story of Grandet’s miserliness and its effects on all those around him. Unlike his contemporaries. Goriot. 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. unlike Goriot. as were his readers. who looked to some of his novels as practical guides to understanding the complex notions of stocks. The ravings of the old noodle merchant contain painful truths. is the real subject of all Balzac’s novels. the miser Grandet takes on some of the characteristics of the gold he covets. and the novel describes his obsession with wealth and his efforts to maximise profit at the expense of human life. which reveal to Eugène de Rastignac the imperfect but real nature of society. for example. Look at the final scenes where Goriot is slowly dying. He was very interested in money. Grandet makes a lot of money by understanding the way society works. 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 ‘seven boarders were Madame Vauquer’s spoiled children. ‘Take good care of everything.’ he says to his daughter. shares and equity. is spurned by his daughters who unfeelingly squander his gifts in order to achieve a higher social standing. like Shakespeare’s King Lear. sorts and grades them in terms of how much they pay or are worth. In Eugène de Rastignac he finds an alternative substitute son. and we are given extensive descriptions of financial transactions. and she distributed her attentions and favours among them with an astronomer’s precision according to the sum of money each paid’ (Section 1). it can be argued. and his manipulation of finance can be read as an example of what happened in France after 1789 when land owned by the Church was nationalised and subsequently bought not by the poor landless peasants who worked on it. The monomania of Grandet is similarly overwhelming. Both stories end tragically. There are many similarities between the story of King Lear and Old Goriot. and this allows him to speculate – he is extremely good at this.

often lapse into ‘talking rama’ (Section 1). Two particular episodes are worth noting in this connection. This latter notion of language as a form of currency is an old one (think about the phrase ‘to coin a phrase’ for example). the critic Roland Barthes claimed that reading the novels actually made him sick. in effect. the conversational nuances of the French working class are played out hilariously by the boarders who. for example. Consider. he exercises an authority in his novels.Chapter 2: Section A author study: Honoré de Balzac (Eugénie Grandet and Old Goriot) transparent narrative voice. Instead. urging us to see the world as he sees it. In Old Goriot. He was extremely attuned to the changing nuances of everyday speech. 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. as something traded by individuals for certain benefits or material gains. In Chapter 4 he pretends to have speech and hearing defects with the intention of ‘wearing out the patience of his business opponent and of keeping him so busy trying to express Grandet’s thoughts that the opponent lost sight of his own.’ Language is used expertly here to buy time and hence to win a deal: it is. when together. 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. In Eugénie Grandet language is manipulated by Grandet the miser to achieve a certain result in a financial deal. Balzac’s commentaries on the life of a young girl in Chapter 3 of Eugénie Grandet. a literal example of ‘linguistic coinage’. who gain a certain coherence as a community through a shared language. but it also demonstrates Balzac’s acute sensitivity to the world in which he lived. This episode provides comic relief in the story. as Balzac states. Find places in Eugénie Grandet and Old Goriot where Balzac makes his presence felt. 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. ‘Rama’. Unable to stomach Balzac’s self-assured rhetoric. Are there other episodes where language is used in a particular way to reveal something about the nature of nineteenth-century French society? 37 . and it would be difficult to analyse some of the linguistic structures in detail.

2. 4. especially those relating to moral. Sample essay questions 1. In what ways can Balzac’s work be seen as reflecting the nineteenth-century obsession with scientific enquiry? Discuss with reference to at least two novels. To what extent can we read Eugénie Grandet and Old Goriot as the stories of rebellion by children against their parents? 38 . What contrast does Balzac make between the city and the provinces? Discuss with reference to at least two novels. ‘It was necessary in order to be complete. Discuss the notion of social class in Balzac’s novels. In 1834. 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. 3. Balzac wrote. to show a moral sewer of Paris that gives the effect of a disgusting sore’.The Novel Learning outcomes By the end of this chapter and the relevant reading. 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Novel Notes 48 .

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Novel Notes 58 .

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

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

Notes Notes 61 .

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