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

BA and Diploma in English

Correction

033E070 The Novel
December 2008: First correction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Novel Notes 16 .

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

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

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

arising from the consideration of minds. What Scott recognises here. manners and sentiments greatly above our own’. is. It might be argued that this is largely a matter of reader response.e. and topics of conversation. the ‘realism’ that Scott finds in Austen is not a naïve and slavish mimeticism (i. 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. imitation). if ever. is that novelistic realism rarely. perhaps. his sense that Austen’s realism is a key characteristic of her fiction is one that has been shared by many recent commentators. but we can get a sense of their nature from the comments of Austen’s narrator in Northanger Abbey (a novel published posthumously but first drafted around 1797/98). If this is a little vague. that we never miss the excitation which depends upon a narrative of uncommon events. a realism which he saw as peculiar to the novel as it was developing in the early nineteenth century. say. the liveliest effusions of wit and humour are conveyed to the world in the best chosen language. or dramatic. Such essays are condemned for offering ‘improbable circumstances. Although Austen’s own novels are no less didactic or conventional than those of her eighteenth-century predecessors. Don Quixote and ending with late twentieth-century fiction. Retrospectively. which no longer concern any one living’. Interestingly. the happiest delineation of its varieties. presentation of events in which the characters speak and act without noticeable or intrusive authorial intervention) with great subtlety. Austen’s narrator defines these novels as: …works in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed. Even so. Austen can be seen to have drawn together some of the disparate realist strategies of eighteenth-century fiction and to have developed them in hitherto unprecedented ways.The Novel Just when such agreements became general has been much debated. since the reader generally chooses whether or not to suspend his or her disbelief. they can often give the impression that they are ‘slices of life’ rather than carefully contrived fictions. against which Austen seeks to define the ‘novel’. and what some modern critics have ignored in various condemnations of ‘realism’. aspires to offer ‘reality’ in unmediated form. 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. more telling. While Scott’s critical tenets differ markedly from those of modern critics and readers. but rather a skilful presentation of characters from ‘ordinary walks of life’ presented ‘with such spirit and originality. beginning with. unnatural characters. in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature. Familiar equally with Richardson’s refinements of the epistolary form and Fielding’s use of the intrusive third-person narrative voice. 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. part of Austen’s impressive technical achievement was to create a sense of ‘reality’ by 20 . Walter Scott described Austen as an exemplary practitioner of a new realism in prose fiction. Referring approvingly to particular novels by Fanny Burney and Maria Edgeworth. Austen blends what has come to be called ‘telling’ (direct commentary and judgement from the narrative ‘voice’) and ‘showing’ (the scenic.

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

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

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

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

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

The Novel Notes 26 .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Novel Notes 48 .

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

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

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

The Novel

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

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

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

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Chapter 4: Section B topic study: post-modernism

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

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

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

53

The Novel

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Novel Notes 58 .

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

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

Notes Notes 61 .

The Novel Notes 62 .

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