E070 the Novel | Novelists | Novels

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Novel Notes 16 .

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

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

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

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

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. however. 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. 21 . It might be argued. beyond anything. then you might also consult Poovey (1984) and/or Johnson (1988) and Kirkham (1983). make her as skilled a novelist as any in a century that produced the great ‘classics’ of European realism. Austen. Austen has Rushworth repeat his buzzwords in a comically absurd way: It wants improvement. 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. 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. since they often presuppose a progression that is by no means a given and impose a false sense of teleology. How central and how intrusive are such oppositions in the novel? Now reread Chapter VI of the first volume. Similarly. typically.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. and helps us to understand the particular social pressures that helped to shape the tradition of didactic fiction for women. it is reasonable to view Mansfield Park as technically more accomplished than the novels first drafted a decade earlier (Sense and Sensibility. 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). I never saw a place that wanted so much improvement in my life. In order to gain a sense of Austen’s relation to eighteenth-century novel traditions. The latter is particularly helpful because its demonstrates Austen’s inheritance from women writers like Charlotte Lennox and Fanny Burney. Make a list of some key words/concepts that you consider important in Mansfield Park. as well as explicit ones like the antithesis between propriety and impropriety. Notions of maturity and development in treatments of writers’ careers are not always reliable. 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). To confirm the point. Austen’s handling of a narrative point of view and her ability to make apparently ordinary and mundane events carry the broader burdens of her most serious concerns. That said. 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. 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. but Austen seems keen to express much more than Rushworth’s mercenary views here. Having prepared the ground with succinct summary. ma’am. however. You might want to think about implied oppositions like that between innovation and tradition. Northanger Abbey and Pride and Prejudice). If you are interested in debates about Austen’s feminism.

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

Thus. stillness and selfabnegation. the heroines are already exemplary insofar as they think of others ahead of self and tend to judge by external. Catherine Morland. Austen is faced with a number of problems. with a moral integrity that is lacking in other characters. For all that they finally adhere to the conventions of comedy. What makes Anne’s situation particularly painful. by choosing to present such exemplary and near ideal heroines. she needs to show that. Fanny and Anne really are worthy. Thus. However. Marianne Dashwood. then it seems to pervade the autumnal atmosphere of Persuasion. and partly because it does signal some formal and thematic departures from Austen’s previous novels. Fanny’s sense of self-worth is hard won in a milieu that proves sometimes aggressively uncongenial to her values of quietness. Interestingly. Austen’s novels are consistently preoccupied with the lives of young women whose security and happiness are radically threatened.rather than eighteenth-century end of the spectrum touched upon above. Austen confronts the difficulties of convincing readers that her exemplary heroines are in some sense living and breathing rather than ‘flat’ allegorical figures. Partly because it is her last completed novel.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. a novel like Mansfield Park seeks to affirm traditional Christian values in a way that bespeaks some confidence. Firstly. like Fanny. objective standards rather than subjectively. Secondly. in spite of the generally negative assessments of those around them. Austen imbues Anne. 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. the situation is slightly different in Mansfield Park and Persuasion. Emma Woodhouse and even Elizabeth Bennet learn the dangers of subjectivism in the course of the narratives in which they are central. and. like Fanny. 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. is that her one chance of happiness – in the form of marriage to Captain Wentworth – seems to be behind her when the novel begins. Anne too is ignored and undervalued by those around her for most of the narrative. many of them ideological. Consider some of the ways in which Persuasion might be seen as a more melancholy and pessimistic novel than Mansfield Park. In both novels. however. 23 . If the threat of personal and cultural atrophy is raised only to be expunged in Mansfield Park. Persuasion has often been placed at the nineteenth. on the one hand. while on the other it charts the painful isolation of Fanny Price. Austen’s novels generally prefer objective ‘facts’ to subjective judgements. Anne Elliot is that much more isolated than even Fanny Price. How would you explain what might appear to be an excessive reaction to a minor disruption? What is the significance of the fact that it is Fanny (the poor cousin and ‘outsider’) who defends and in some sense ‘saves’ Mansfield Park? How and with what degree of success does the marriage between Edmund and Fanny resolve the novel’s most urgent concerns? Persuasion: subjectivity and narrative voice Alistair Duckworth has suggested that Austen’s novels can be fruitfully viewed as texts which look back to eighteenth-century Providential fictions and forward to the fictions of doubt that flourish as the nineteenth century unfolds.

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

irony. Consider Austen’s handling of the relationship between the individual and society. 2. Consider the significance of one of the following in Austen’s fiction: place. having studied the essential reading and some of the recommended critical texts. To what extent.or nineteenth-century fiction.Chapter 1: Section A author study: Jane Austen Nevertheless. you might consider how Austen’s fiction relates to novels that appear otherwise quite different.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. How useful is the term ‘realism’ in relation to Austen’s fiction? 3. Learning outcomes By the end of this chapter. 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. 25 . point of view. Sample essay questions 1. for example. Consider the relationship between any two of Austen’s novels and aspects of either eighteenth. dialogue. does Austen share with other novelists since Cervantes an almost obsessive concern with epistemological questions? What kinds of family resemblances are there between Austen’s heroines and the protagonists of other nineteenth. you should be able to: • • • • summarise the debates about Austen’s fiction discuss the degree to which her novels are informed by particular historical concerns describe and give examples of some of the techniques Austen employs as part of the rhetoric of her fiction explain what it means to call Austen a ‘realist’. you might pursue your reading of Persuasion further so as to clarify a broader understanding of the novel. 4. What values does Austen embody in the Navy and what are the wider social implications of Anne’s marriage to Captain Wentworth? Suggestions for further study As you gain a greater sense of some of the preoccupations of the novel as it developed in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. and how such ‘realism’ relates to other novels and novelistic traditions. and the events around Louisa’s fall in Chapter XII.

The Novel Notes 26 .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Novel Notes 48 .

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

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

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

The Novel

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

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

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

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Chapter 4: Section B topic study: post-modernism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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If you’re more ambitious and want to read the writers themselves.Chapter 4: Section B topic study: post-modernism Prescribing post-modernism: Lyotard We now come to Jean-François Lyotard’s philosophy of post-modernism. in which the author shatters the storytelling illusion by being self-conscious about how the text we are reading is written. multiple or a combination of the three. Marguerite Duras) to the playful work of Italians Italo Calvino and Umberto Eco. As we’ll now see. shows that such imposed systems can wreak unspeakable horror. Simulations. 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. If you want to find out more about them. Lyotard argues for a world of ‘small’. In so doing. authoritative narrative voice (or ‘metanarrative’) that can organise and ‘explain’ the events recounted. History. unstable. which arises out of its distrust of narrative authority. Both the French theorists discussed in this chapter. 55 . or ‘metafiction’. ideas and activities coexisting not in absolute harmony but in creative tension. despite its celebration of a plurality of different speech registers and literary styles. fascism. ultimately imposes a unifying mythic pattern on that plurality. are complex and demanding writers. it may be worth reading an introductory text first: Bill Readings’ Understanding Lyotard and Douglas Kellner’s Jean Baudrillard are both recommended. Where a classic realist such as Dickens imposes the authority of his own narrative voice on the diverse range of characters and attitudes in his novels. City of Glass illustrates this tendency very clearly. Lyotard’s argument for social and political diversity. Baudrillard and Lyotard. politics and society on individuals. giving them a certain ideological and moral coherence. in which a plurality of social voices can coexist creatively even when in conflict. literature in the last few decades has rejected the idea of a single. to experimental American writers John Barth. which he sets out in his book The Postmodern Condition. he or she unmasks the ‘realism’ of the traditional novel as an illusion. communism and global capitalism. Lyotard’s argument can be summed up by his description of the prevailing attitude of contemporary society as being one of ‘incredulity towards metanarratives’. Claude Simon. or ‘metanarratives’ of ‘modernity’. is what is called ‘self-reflexivity’. Against the assumption that all thought and action can be driven in a single direction. Donalde Barthelme and Robert Coover. Even James Joyce’s great experimental work. Ulysses. 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. and most obviously the Nazi Holocaust. can be seen at work in a different form in a number of post-modernist literary texts. A central feature of post-modern fiction. the narrators of post-modern novels are typically unreliable. or micro-narratives. all impose one model of ethics. In contrast to the modernist illusion that all conflicts can be resolved by a single system. By this rather daunting phrase. and Lyotard’s The Postmodern Explained to Children. he suggests they can take many paths from many different groups and individuals. start with Baudrillard’s short volume.

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

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

The Novel Notes 58 .

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

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

Notes Notes 61 .

The Novel Notes 62 .

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