The Novel

BA English

J. Cohen, J. Desmarais, B. Moore-Gilbert J. T. Parnell 2002 0033E070

This guide was prepared for the University of London by: J. Cohen, Phd, Lecturer in English, Goldsmiths College, University of London J. Desmarais, MA, PhD, Lecturer in English and Art History, Departments of English, and Historical and Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths College, University of London B. Moore-Gilbert, MA, DPhil, Reader in English, Goldsmiths College, University of London J.T. Parnell, PhD, Lecturer in English, Goldsmiths College, University of London. This is one of a series of subject guides published by the University. We regret that due to pressure of work the authors are unable to enter into any correspondence relating to, or arising from, the guide. If you have any comments on this subject guide, favourable or unfavourable, please use the form at the back of this guide.

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BA and Diploma in English

Correction

033E070 The Novel
December 2008: First correction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michael J. Translated by Annette Lavers and Colin Smith. 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. An excellent introduction to the theory of narratology using a wide range of international texts. an Introduction. the kind of short. Translated by W. the bibliographies in such books are a good starting place. 1953) [ISBN 0-691-01269-5 (pbk)]. should produce lists of Cervantes’ writing. (Harmondsworth: Penguin. Roland (1967) Writing Degree Zero. 1996) second edition [ISBN 0-7185-0119-5 (hbk). 1991) second edition [ISBN 0-14-013736-X (pbk)]. The constraints of time make it impossible for you to read very widely on particular authors. If you want to pursue your reading further. Barthes. The Dialogic Imagination. You will know from your work on the foundation units that the nature of English studies has changed radically over the last 20 years. Mikhail M. critical discussions of individual novels offered by a series like the Cambridge ‘Landmarks of World Literature’ will generally provide sufficient information on given texts. Edited by M. Holquist. Hoffman. Rimmon-Kenan. If all the criticism that you read on. so if you want to find out more about. etc. say. Jeremy Studying the Novel. (1983) The Rhetoric of Fiction. Other recommended books Alter. NJ: Princeton University Press. say. So the entry ‘Cervantes’. 1984) [ISBN 0-224-02267-9]. *Bakhtin. A brief but elegant statement of a post-modernist rejection of realism in France. Trask. George Eliot was written in the 1950s you may have a limited idea of the range of critical responses to this writer. (Austin: University of Texas Press. A highly influential and admirably clear study of the ‘rhetoric’ of a wide range of American and European novels. authoritative. (London: Leicester University Press. Murphy (eds) Essentials of the Theory of Fiction. *Auerbach. Bear this in mind. A very useful collection of essays by some of the major commentators on questions of narrative theory. 1982) [ISBN 0-292-71534-X]. Four Essays by M. with the help of the Handbook and bearing the following in mind. but also biographies. (London and New York: Routledge. Most libraries have computerised indexing which will cross-reference. introduction to many of the key issues and topics. A fluent study of the ‘tradition’ of self-conscious novelists who question and parody dominant novel-types. (Princeton. (Berkeley. if basic. and Patrick D. critical readings. 0-7185-0120-9 (pbk)].M. Erich Mimesis: the Representation of Reality in Western Literature. London: University of California Press. Secondary reading Essential texts Hawthorn. A clear. 1975) [ISBN 0-520-02755-8]. Although they are not available for all the novels that you might study. Booth. (London and New York: Arnold.The Novel authors and topics not listed above or discussed in this subject guide you will need to compile your own reading lists. (London: Cape. At the same time. Shlomith (1983) Narrative Fiction: Contemporary Poetics. 1997) third edition [ISBN 0-340.69220-0 (pbk)]. Wayne C. 1989) [ISBN 0-415-04294-1 (pbk)]. 4 . Robert Partial Magic: The Novel as Self-Conscious Genre. The author traces the gradual raising of low-life mimesis to the level of high art and offers a close analysis of passages. for example.

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

Narrative: A Critical Linguistic Introduction. (London: Merlin. 1986) [ISBN 0-631-13915-X (hbk). 1988) [ISBN 0-415-00765-8]. Robert and Robert Kellogg The Nature of Narrative. 1973) [ISBN 0-7100-7379]. (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. (London: Routledge. Michael The Origins of the English Novel 1660–1740. Elaine (1977) A Literature of Their Own. Toolan. Author study: Cervantes’ Don Quixote and some secondary material. Joseph Peter On Realism. nonEurocentric study of the development of the novel in world culture. 1989) [ISBN 0-415-04513-4]. 1984) [ISBN 0415030064 (pbk)]. (Baltimore. Topic study: varieties of realism (secondary reading on realism and the novel). Stern. 1984) [ISBN 0-86068-285-4 (pbk)]. 2000) [ISBN 0712664270 (pbk)]. (Harmondsworth: Penguin. Georg (1920) The Theory of the Novel. (London: Prentice Hall. Translated by Hannah and Stanley Mitchell. (London: Pimlico. An extensively researched. Topic study: narrative voice and perspective (suggested text James’ The Spoils of Poynton and some secondary material). Patricia Metafiction: The Theory and Practice of Self-Conscious Fiction (London: Routledge. London: Johns Hopkins University Press. Translated by Anna Bostock. books like Mikhail Bakhtin’s The Dialogic Imagination and Ian Watt’s The Rise of the Novel). 6 . Stevenson. Studies in Defoe. Topic study: the epistolary novel (suggested text: Laclos’ Les Liaisons Dangereuses or Burney’s Evelina). (London: Virago. McHale. Author study: Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park and Persuasion. Georg (1955) The Historical Novel. Jane The Rise of the Woman Novelist: From Aphra Behn to Jane Austen. Spencer. (London: Routledge. Ian (1957) The Rise of The Novel. 1988) [ISBN 0415008697 (pbk)]. Weeks 3–4: Week 5: Week 6: Weeks 7–8: Week 11: Week 12: Weeks 9–10: Author study: Balzac’s Eugénie Grandet and Old Goriot.The Novel Lukács. Showalter. Waugh. British Women Novelists from Brontë to Lessing. * Highly recommended Suggested study syllabus Here is a sample 20-week syllabus to give you an idea of how you could structure your own syllabus for this subject. Gilbert A Short Guide to the World Novel. 0-631-13916-8 (pbk)]. 1976) [ISBN 0-140-55081-X (pbk)]. (London: Routledge. Phelps. Scholes. Topic study: the genesis of the novel as a form (suggested text: Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe). 1987) [ISBN 0-8018-3746-4 (pbk].e. a Historico–Philosophic Essay on the Forms of Great Epic Literature. McKeon. 1997) revised edition [ISBN 013837659X (pbk)]. Michael. Weeks 1–2: Background reading on theories of the novel and debates about its origins (i. the Myth to Modernism. Richardson and Fielding. Brian Postmodernist Fiction. 1978) [ISBN 0-85036-236-9 (pbk)]. *Watt. A highly influential study of the generic and sociological influences which gave rise to the novel. (Oxford: Blackwell. Randall Modernist Fiction: An Introduction. Lukács. 1966) [ISBN 0195007735 (pbk)]. (Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Novel Notes 16 .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Novel Notes 26 .

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

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

Chapter 2: Section A author study: Honoré de Balzac (Eugénie Grandet and Old Goriot) Stowe. The first two sections below provide a contextual discussion of Balzac. describes the social and political changes that took place between the French Revolution in 1789 and the July Revolution of 1830. whereas Old Goriot is set in 1819–1820. The bibliographies above represent a selection of some of the more accessible secondary material written in English. the character of Vautrin) sensation. The core texts belong to Honoré de Balzac’s (1799–1850) cycle of novels collectively issued under the generic title of The Human Comedy (La Comédie humaine). his work has generated an enormous amount of criticism. Translated by Lorenzo O’Rourke. 29 . taken together. 1973) [ISBN 0838316700]. The sections thereafter deal with the separate issues of: • • • • • characterisation (Balzac’s use of contrast. A Critical Study. They describe the rationale behind the large project of The Human Comedy and Balzac’s place within the nineteenth-century tradition of Realist literature. in Old Goriot. Nationalisation of church property (2 November 1789). Balzac’s aim was that. they should represent a comprehensive picture of the social and moral history of France in the early nineteenth century. the relationship between parents and children) narrative voice language.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. N. Hyppolite Balzac. Balzac. and so you should make sure that you understand some of the important events in late-eighteenth. James and the Realistic Novel. * 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. Background Balzac documented the life of his times in his novels. mystery and melodrama themes (the opposition between Paris and the provinces. Civil Constitution of the Clergy (12 July 1790). (Princeton. (New York: Haskell House. In Eugénie Grandet we see Balzac as a commentator on contemporary events. genre. 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). France’s ancient provinces divided into administrative départements (12 November 1789). just after Napoleon’s downfall. the motif of money. published in 17 volumes between 1842 and 1848. Taine. William W.. The chapter concludes with a list of learning outcomes and sample examination questions. As you might expect of such a prolific author. Guildford: Princeton University Press. Declaration of the Rights of Man (27 August 1789).J. 1983) [ISBN 0691065675]. he is writing with the benefit of hindsight. for instance.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

especially those relating to moral. 4. In 1834. Discuss the notion of social class 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 . to show a moral sewer of Paris that gives the effect of a disgusting sore’. In what ways can Balzac’s work be seen as reflecting the nineteenth-century obsession with scientific enquiry? Discuss with reference to at least two novels. Sample essay questions 1. social and economic issues describe Balzac’s narrative voice approach the work of other Realist writers using your familiarity with Balzac’s approach to his subject. Balzac wrote. 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. 2. 3.The Novel Learning outcomes By the end of this chapter and the relevant reading. What contrast does Balzac make between the city and the provinces? Discuss with reference to at least two novels. ‘It was necessary in order to be complete.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Novel Notes 48 .

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

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

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

The Novel

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

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

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

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Chapter 4: Section B topic study: post-modernism

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

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

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

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The Novel

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Novel Notes 58 .

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

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

Notes Notes 61 .

The Novel Notes 62 .

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