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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘New problems appear and demand new methods. 2. Barthes. add welldefined characters. David ‘Middlemarch and the idea of the classic realist text’ in After Bakhtin: Essays on Fiction and Criticism. Patricia Metafiction: The Theory and Practice of Self-Conscious Fiction. ‘Self-conscious fiction explicitly lays bare the conventions of realism.—only.’ (BERTOLT BRECHT) Discuss with reference to one or more novelists. it is better understood as a pragmatic effort to render a complex world humanly comprehensible. Gasiorek. 2. Andrzej Post-War British Fiction: Realism and After. Suggested reading Auerbach. Reality changes. Waugh. my dear Sir. (do. David The Modes of Modern Writing: Metaphor. in order to represent it. 4. ‘Although realist fiction is often condemned for its bad faith and conventionality. 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. ‘We’ll not stop two moments.’ Discuss with reference to one novelist. George ‘Realism Reconsidered’ in Hoffman and Murphy (eds) Essentials of the Theory of Fiction. Lukács. but is actually informed by particular assumptions about the “real” and mediated by highly conventional rhetorical strategies. Suggested reading Alter. (London and New York: Edward Arnold. Erich Mimesis: the Representation of Reality in Western Literature.’ Discuss with reference to one or more novelists. This is inadequate. and experimentalism as their subversion.’ Discuss with reference to one or more novelists. 3.’ (LAURENCE STERNE) Consider the significance of self-conscious narration in the work of one or more novelists. as we have got thro’ these five volumes. Metonymy. Lodge. 1995) [ISBN 0340572159 (pbk)]. 5. Roland Writing Degree Zero. Chapter 3. ‘The realism/experimentalism dichotomy is formalist.Introduction Realism and mimesis Questions 1. Barthes. Lodge. Sir. Especially Chapters 1 and 8 Levine. assume throughout the world is susceptible to rational enquiry and therefore knowable. Georg ‘Marxist Aesthetics and Literary Realism’ in Hoffman and Murphy (eds) Essentials of the Theory of Fiction. Chapter 17. Robert Partial Magic: The Novel as Self-Conscious Genre. modes of representation must change. ‘Recipe for the “realist” novel: invent a plot based on cause-and-effect. Chapter 10 Self-conscious fiction Questions 1. It construes realism as a set of narrative techniques. 11 .’ Discuss with reference to one or more novelists. ‘The realist novel purports to offer a neutral and transparent representation of the world. it does not ignore or abandon them. consider the relationship between ‘realism’ and ‘self-consciousness’ in the work of one or more novelists.’ In the light of this claim. and the Typology of Modern Writing. Roland S/Z.

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

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

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

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

The Novel Notes 16 .

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

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

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

part of Austen’s impressive technical achievement was to create a sense of ‘reality’ by 20 . they can often give the impression that they are ‘slices of life’ rather than carefully contrived fictions. that we never miss the excitation which depends upon a narrative of uncommon events. or dramatic. say. Referring approvingly to particular novels by Fanny Burney and Maria Edgeworth. the ‘realism’ that Scott finds in Austen is not a naïve and slavish mimeticism (i. beginning with. but rather a skilful presentation of characters from ‘ordinary walks of life’ presented ‘with such spirit and originality. a realism which he saw as peculiar to the novel as it was developing in the early nineteenth century. Such essays are condemned for offering ‘improbable circumstances. and what some modern critics have ignored in various condemnations of ‘realism’. the liveliest effusions of wit and humour are conveyed to the world in the best chosen language. Don Quixote and ending with late twentieth-century fiction.The Novel Just when such agreements became general has been much debated. Although Austen’s own novels are no less didactic or conventional than those of her eighteenth-century predecessors. presentation of events in which the characters speak and act without noticeable or intrusive authorial intervention) with great subtlety. What Scott recognises here. aspires to offer ‘reality’ in unmediated form. imitation). his sense that Austen’s realism is a key characteristic of her fiction is one that has been shared by many recent commentators. more telling. Familiar equally with Richardson’s refinements of the epistolary form and Fielding’s use of the intrusive third-person narrative voice. Even so. perhaps. since the reader generally chooses whether or not to suspend his or her disbelief. It might be argued that this is largely a matter of reader response. but we can get a sense of their nature from the comments of Austen’s narrator in Northanger Abbey (a novel published posthumously but first drafted around 1797/98). Walter Scott described Austen as an exemplary practitioner of a new realism in prose fiction. arising from the consideration of minds. the happiest delineation of its varieties. if ever. 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. how useful and comprehensive is Austen’s definition? Austen’s ‘realism’ In his review of Emma in 1815. then the ensuing list of features of the periodical essay. in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature. Scott’s understanding of Austen’s realism is noteworthy in its suggestion of an expectation of a general level of plausibility combined with an exemplary rather than naturalistic approach to character. and topics of conversation. Austen blends what has come to be called ‘telling’ (direct commentary and judgement from the narrative ‘voice’) and ‘showing’ (the scenic.e. is that novelistic realism rarely. Austen’s narrator defines these novels as: …works in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed. unnatural characters. 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. Interestingly. If this is a little vague. against which Austen seeks to define the ‘novel’. Retrospectively. is. which no longer concern any one living’. While Scott’s critical tenets differ markedly from those of modern critics and readers. manners and sentiments greatly above our own’.

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

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

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

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

having studied the essential reading and some of the recommended critical texts. How useful is the term ‘realism’ in relation to Austen’s fiction? 3. Consider the relationship between any two of Austen’s novels and aspects of either eighteenth. Consider Austen’s handling of the relationship between the individual and society. you might pursue your reading of Persuasion further so as to clarify a broader understanding of the novel. 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. irony. point of view. Sample essay questions 1.Chapter 1: Section A author study: Jane Austen Nevertheless. Consider the significance of one of the following in Austen’s fiction: place. 25 . What values does Austen embody in the Navy and what are the wider social implications of Anne’s marriage to Captain Wentworth? Suggestions for further study As you gain a greater sense of some of the preoccupations of the novel as it developed in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. 4. Learning outcomes By the end of this chapter. 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. for example. 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 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.or nineteenth-century fiction. and how such ‘realism’ relates to other novels and novelistic traditions. dialogue. To what extent. 2. and the events around Louisa’s fall in Chapter XII.

The Novel Notes 26 .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Byatt. Randall ‘Contemporary Gothic’ in his The British Novel Since the Thirties: An Introduction. Victor Modern Gothic: A Reader. You may use any edition that you find convenient. Richard Iris Murdoch. Muriel Spark and John Fowles: Didactic Demons in Modern Fiction. On Murdoch This selection covers texts with useful material on The Unicorn. Peter John Fowles. 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. The only full-length text on the topic is: Sage. Stevenson. (London: Farleigh Dickinson University Press. (London: Vintage. 39 . 1986) [ISBN 0-7134-4664-1] 184–89. (London: Methuen. Two essays are recommended: Moore-Gilbert. Please note that new paperback editions of modern novels like these frequently appear. (London: Associated Universities Press. 1987) [ISBN 014002476X]. A. 1992) [ISBN 0-415-07825-3] 181–200. 1994) [ISBN 0099302241].Chapter 3: Section B topic study: modern Gothic Chapter 3 Section B topic study: modern Gothic Essential reading John Fowles (1963) The Collector.S. Iris Murdoch (1963) The Unicorn. Simon The Romances of John Fowles. 1998) [ISBN 009974371X]. 1982) [ISBN 0-333-32846-9]. Conradi. Macmillan. Loveday. On Fowles This selection covers texts with useful material on The Collector. Bart ‘The Return of the Repressed: Gothic and the 1960s novel’ in Moore-Gilbert. (London: Macmillan. Bart and John Seed (eds) Cultural Revolution?: The Challenge of the Arts in the 1960s. (London: Routledge. 1982) [ISBN 0-416-31290-X]. Kane. 1996) [ISBN 0-219-04208-9]. Gerstenberger. 1988) [ISBN 0838633242]. (London: Vintage. (Manchester: Manchester University Press. Elizabeth Iris Murdoch: Work for the Spirit. (London: Batsford. 1975) [ISBN 0-8387-7731-7]. 1988) [ISBN 0333444825 (pbk)]. Donna Iris Murdoch. (Harmondsworth: Penguin. (1970) Degrees of Freedom: The Novels of Iris Murdoch. Dipple.

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

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

ghosts. who recalls the protagonist in James’ The Turn of the Screw. like them it is very old (built in 1625). or even Pip Lejour and Effingham Cooper. Clegg too is an orphan in the Fowles novel. of course.The Novel figure. it is claustrophobic and has a basement room. Each behaves ‘monstrously’ without ever threatening to become non-human. most modern Gothic – like The Collector – prefers a more ordinary social milieu than the religious orders or aristocracy favoured by Romantic Gothic. What attitudes do Fowles and Murdoch invite us to take towards ‘deviant’ sexuality? To what extent are they challenging the dominant discourses about sexuality current before 1960? Can these novels be considered ‘permissive’ on the issue of sexuality? But there are important differences. In certain respects Clegg is quite ordinary. domestic violence can 42 . In contemporary Gothic. is transformed into obsession. 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’. between contemporary Gothic and its earlier forms. Many earlier Gothic texts focus on orphan figures and. The ‘domestication’ of modern Gothic relates to one of its most important insights. Miranda. including incest (hinted at in Hannah’s marriage to her cousin). so characteristic of earlier Gothic. including kidnap and imprisonment – mental as well as physical. within a psychologically realistic framework. Finally. voyeurism and sado-masochism recur in the work of Murdoch and Fowles. as in Romantic Gothic. vampires and monsters survive only metaphorically. that the everyday and the ‘normal’ may be sources of horror and terror quite as potent as anything conceived of by earlier Gothic. What factors make Clegg appear so ordinary? Most obviously. are heightened in contemporary equivalents like The Collector and The Unicorn by similar plot conventions. What uses does Murdoch’s novel make of the architecture of the great house? Suspense and horror. Modern Gothic usually has a surface realism that allows the reader to suspend disbelief in the face of apparently extreme events and situations. that functions as a kind of dungeon. violence of manifold kinds and sexual ‘deviancy’. To what extent are Clegg and Hannah ‘mad’ or simply extremely clever or manipulative? In terms of the physical settings of the novels. note how the architectural conventions of earlier Gothic return. as in the case of Clegg or Gerald Scottow. so that settings which are traditionally distanced in time or space are so now only vestigially or symbolically. 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. for instance. 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’. once a priest’s hole. Possession. It tends to ‘domesticate’ many of the genre’s established conventions. While Clegg’s house is not to be compared in grandeur with the castles and monasteries of Romantic Gothic. the often unambiguously supernatural aspect of earlier Gothic disappears. too. it is isolated. Although The Unicorn is set among ‘the gentry’.

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

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

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

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

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

The Novel Notes 48 .

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

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

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

The Novel

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

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

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

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Chapter 4: Section B topic study: post-modernism

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

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

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

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The Novel

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Novel Notes 58 .

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

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

Notes Notes 61 .

The Novel Notes 62 .

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