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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Novel Notes 16 .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

does Austen share with other novelists since Cervantes an almost obsessive concern with epistemological questions? What kinds of family resemblances are there between Austen’s heroines and the protagonists of other nineteenth. To what extent.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. 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. you might consider how Austen’s fiction relates to novels that appear otherwise quite different. having studied the essential reading and some of the recommended critical texts. and how such ‘realism’ relates to other novels and novelistic traditions. What values does Austen embody in the Navy and what are the wider social implications of Anne’s marriage to Captain Wentworth? Suggestions for further study As you gain a greater sense of some of the preoccupations of the novel as it developed in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. and the events around Louisa’s fall in Chapter XII. irony.Chapter 1: Section A author study: Jane Austen Nevertheless. 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’. Learning outcomes By the end of this chapter. How useful is the term ‘realism’ in relation to Austen’s fiction? 3. 4. point of view. dialogue. 2. for example.or nineteenth-century fiction. Sample essay questions 1. 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. Consider the significance of one of the following in Austen’s fiction: place. Consider the relationship between any two of Austen’s novels and aspects of either eighteenth. 25 .

The Novel Notes 26 .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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’. ghosts. once a priest’s hole. is transformed into obsession. too. it is isolated.The Novel figure. within a psychologically realistic framework. of course. that the everyday and the ‘normal’ may be sources of horror and terror quite as potent as anything conceived of by earlier Gothic. who recalls the protagonist in James’ The Turn of the Screw. voyeurism and sado-masochism recur in the work of Murdoch and Fowles. Although The Unicorn is set among ‘the gentry’. It tends to ‘domesticate’ many of the genre’s established conventions. including kidnap and imprisonment – mental as well as physical. To what extent are Clegg and Hannah ‘mad’ or simply extremely clever or manipulative? In terms of the physical settings of the novels. domestic violence can 42 . The ‘domestication’ of modern Gothic relates to one of its most important insights. so characteristic of earlier Gothic. for instance. like them it is very old (built in 1625). 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’. In contemporary Gothic. Clegg too is an orphan in the Fowles novel. so that settings which are traditionally distanced in time or space are so now only vestigially or symbolically. are heightened in contemporary equivalents like The Collector and The Unicorn by similar plot conventions. While Clegg’s house is not to be compared in grandeur with the castles and monasteries of Romantic Gothic. between contemporary Gothic and its earlier forms. What uses does Murdoch’s novel make of the architecture of the great house? Suspense and horror. What factors make Clegg appear so ordinary? Most obviously. vampires and monsters survive only metaphorically. 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. note how the architectural conventions of earlier Gothic return. Finally. Miranda. including incest (hinted at in Hannah’s marriage to her cousin). When and where is Murdoch’s novel set? Is it set in England? What is the significance of these aspects of its setting? The same is true of social settings in modern Gothic. it is claustrophobic and has a basement room. that functions as a kind of dungeon. the often unambiguously supernatural aspect of earlier Gothic disappears. as in Romantic Gothic. violence of manifold kinds and sexual ‘deviancy’. Many earlier Gothic texts focus on orphan figures and. Modern Gothic usually has a surface realism that allows the reader to suspend disbelief in the face of apparently extreme events and situations. Possession. or even Pip Lejour and Effingham Cooper. In certain respects Clegg is quite ordinary. as in the case of Clegg or Gerald Scottow.

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

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

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

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

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

The Novel Notes 48 .

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

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

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

The Novel

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

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

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

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Chapter 4: Section B topic study: post-modernism

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

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

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

53

The Novel

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

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

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

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fascism. 55 . Even James Joyce’s great experimental work. and Lyotard’s The Postmodern Explained to Children. despite its celebration of a plurality of different speech registers and literary styles. literature in the last few decades has rejected the idea of a single. City of Glass illustrates this tendency very clearly. or ‘metanarratives’ of ‘modernity’. Baudrillard and Lyotard. in which a plurality of social voices can coexist creatively even when in conflict. ultimately imposes a unifying mythic pattern on that plurality. politics and society on individuals.Chapter 4: Section B topic study: post-modernism Prescribing post-modernism: Lyotard We now come to Jean-François Lyotard’s philosophy of post-modernism. History. and most obviously the Nazi Holocaust. is what is called ‘self-reflexivity’. the narrators of post-modern novels are typically unreliable. If you’re more ambitious and want to read the writers themselves. it may be worth reading an introductory text first: Bill Readings’ Understanding Lyotard and Douglas Kellner’s Jean Baudrillard are both recommended. If you want to find out more about them. Ulysses. In so doing. which arises out of its distrust of narrative authority. Both the French theorists discussed in this chapter. in which the author shatters the storytelling illusion by being self-conscious about how the text we are reading is written. Claude Simon. A central feature of post-modern fiction. Simulations. he suggests they can take many paths from many different groups and individuals. In contrast to the modernist illusion that all conflicts can be resolved by a single system. unstable. are complex and demanding writers. By this rather daunting phrase. which he sets out in his book The Postmodern Condition. start with Baudrillard’s short volume. can be seen at work in a different form in a number of post-modernist literary texts. giving them a certain ideological and moral coherence. As we’ll now see. Marguerite Duras) to the playful work of Italians Italo Calvino and Umberto Eco. communism and global capitalism. From the French nouveau roman of the 1960s (Alain Robbe-Grillet. or ‘metafiction’. to experimental American writers John Barth. multiple or a combination of the three. Donalde Barthelme and Robert Coover. Lyotard argues for a world of ‘small’. 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. authoritative narrative voice (or ‘metanarrative’) that can organise and ‘explain’ the events recounted. ideas and activities coexisting not in absolute harmony but in creative tension. shows that such imposed systems can wreak unspeakable horror. all impose one model of ethics. Against the assumption that all thought and action can be driven in a single direction. Lyotard’s argument for social and political diversity. he or she unmasks the ‘realism’ of the traditional novel as an illusion. 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. Lyotard’s argument can be summed up by his description of the prevailing attitude of contemporary society as being one of ‘incredulity towards metanarratives’. or micro-narratives.

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

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

The Novel Notes 58 .

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

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

Notes Notes 61 .

The Novel Notes 62 .

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