English 155A - Fall, 2018

18th Century British Novel

Class Information

Instructor: Menely, Tobias
CRN: 43017
Time: TR 10:30-11:50
Location: 1150 Hart


    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 also discover that realism is never altogether separable from romance, that we read novels as much for their imaginative fictionality as for their realist believability. 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, self-interest and identification with others. We’ll consider the relation of the realist novel to capitalism and imperialism, most specifically in a persistent anxiety, in these novels of individual self-determination, about how one’s own freedom and mobility are implicated in the slavery and servitude of others. We’ll ask about the role played by narrative form and point of view, drawing on Mikhail Bakhtin’s concepts of heteroglossia and dialogism. In addition to four novels and an autobiography—Behn’s Oroonoko, Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, Richardson’s Pamela, Equiano's Interesting Narrative, and Austen’s Mansfield Park—we’ll read some short pieces by major twentieth-century critics for whom the rise of the novel raised fascinating and difficult questions about the purpose of literature in the modern world.


    Two Five-Page Essays 50%
    Online Discussion Forum 30%
    Final Exam 20%


    Oroonoko and Other Writings (Oxford), Behn
    Pamela (Oxford), Richardson
    Robinson Crusoe (Penguin), Defoe
    Interesting Narrative (Oxford), Equiano
    Mansfield Park (Penguin), Austen