English 155A - Spring, 2015

18th Century British Novel

Class Information

Instructor: Menely, Tobias
CRN: 52842
Time: MWF 1:10-2:00
Location: 146 Olson

Description

    Comparing the newly fashionable novel with traditional romances in 1785, Clara Reeve observed that “the novel gives a familiar relation of such things, as pass every day before our eyes, such as may happen to ourselves.” In this course, we’ll ask why eighteenth-century readers came to expect from fiction not virtuous heroes, wicked villains, and exotic locales but rather a portrait of a world much like their own, with relatable characters working to reconcile their individual desires with their duties and the norms of society. We’ll think about how early novels balanced the imperatives of self-creation and self-governance, personal faith and secular motivation, idealized femininity and female social mobility. We’ll consider the relation of the realist novel to capitalism, most specifically in a persistent anxiety, in these novels of individual self-determination, about how one’s own freedom is implicated in the slavery and servitude of others. In addition to five novels—Behn’s _Oroonoko_, Defoe’s _Robinson Crusoe_, Richardson’s _Pamela_, Sterne’s _A Sentimental Journey_, and Austen’s _Mansfield Park_—we’ll read some short pieces by major twentieth-century critics for whom the rise of the realist novel raised fascinating and difficult questions about the fate of literature in the modern world.

Grading

    Two essays; online discussion forum; final exam

Texts

    Oroonoko , Behn
    Robinson Crusoe, Defoe
    Pamela, Richardson
    A Sentimental Journey, Sterne
    Mansfield Park, Austen