English 241b
L. McGrane
TTh 1 – 2:30

Inventing the British Novel

Course Description: This course introduces students to the variety of prose narratives that shaped the emerging novel as a literary genre and a popular form of entertainment in the eighteenth century (1700s). As we explore the novel before it called itself by that name, we will consider the interplay between romance and history, memoir and letter, in discussions about authorship, narrative structure, memory and time. The course focuses specifically on changing cultural conceptions of subjectivity, gender, narrative form, and modalities of reading. We will also investigate theoretical works on the novel to determine how early experiments with the genre evolved in the 19th and 20th centuries. Discussions will synthesize close readings of primary materials and will draw on contemporary theorists including Northrop Frye, Ian Watt, Michael McKeon, Hayden White, and Paul Ricoeur. Our guiding questions will include the following: How do histories of the novel and novel-reading affect our understanding of contemporary novels? How do novels reflect the culture in which they are written and shaped? Why do novels matter?

Course Requirements: Students will attend all class meetings and participate actively in discussions (15%). In addition to reading many novels, essays and hybrid forms, students will write two short essays on works of their choice (20%), a mid-term exam (25%), and a final exam or 8-10 page essay (40%) in lieu of exam. Students will also be asked to write brief in-class or email responses to assigned readings. Late assignments will be penalized ½ letter grade per day past due.

Primary Text Readings:

Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey
Charlotte Charke, The Well-Known Trouble Maker (Course Reader)
William Congreve, Incognita; or Love and Duty Reconciled
Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe
Henry Fielding, The History of Tom Jones; A Foundling
Eliza Haywood, Fantomina (Course Reader)
Elizabeth Inchbald, A Simple Story
Ian McEwan, Atonement

This course satisfies the English Department’s introductory requirement.