Undergraduate English Courses
358:326 Eighteenth Century Novel
01 MTH3 CAC 14596 MCKEON MU-208
The novel is the dominant literary genre of the modern world; this is a course about its origins at the beginning of the modern period.
The most general questions we'll pursue throughout the semester are these: Why did the novel come into being? What is its "novelty"? How is it different from earlier forms of prose fiction (epic, romance, allegory)? What needs does it try to satisfy that aren't met by these genres? To what sorts of (new?) problems does it seem to provide an imaginative solution?
Like all literature, the novel can be understood in terms of both content and form.
On the level of content, early novelists are preoccupied with the novelty of change and mobility. What happens when simple country folk go to the city? What lies beyond the familiar borders of the parish; of England; of Europe? What happens to travelers who venture abroad? What happens when English people decide to colonize other lands? Is it possible to rise above (or fall below) the social station you're born into? How can this sort of mobility be justified or condemned? In a world dominated by men, what's the "proper place" of women? How does the novel challenge--or reinforce--traditional political and religious ideas about the rightness of "staying in your place"?
On the level of form, early novelists worry most of all about how to tell the truth--or at least, how to seem to tell the truth. Is it important to claim your story really happened--for example, by composing it as a series of letters between real people? Is it better to concentrate on using simple language that doesn't draw attention to itself? What sort of person tells stories most effectively? What should a novelist sound like: what kind of "voice" should she or he use in speaking to readers? What are the advantages of first-person as opposed to third-person narration? What's the relation between fictional and historical truth?
We'll read the following books:
Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe (1719).
Samuel Richardson, Pamela (1740).
Henry Fielding, Shamela (1741); Joseph Andrews (1742).
Frances Burney, Evelina (1778).
Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (1813).
If you buy a used copy, be sure its page numbers correspond to those in the new copies stocked by the bookstore.
1.) John Bunyan, The Pilgrim's Progress (Oxford, ISBN 9780199538133)
2.) Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe (Oxford, ISBN 9780199553976)
3.) Samuel Richardson, Pamela (Oxford, ISBN 9780199536498)
4.) Henry Fielding, Joseph Andrews & Shamela (Oxford, ISBN 9780199536986)
5.) Frances Burney, Evelina (Oxford, ISBN 9780199536931)
6.) Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (Oxford, ISBN 9780199535569)