A survey of the major novelists of the period, beginning with Defoe and a few of the writers of amatory fiction in the early decades of the century and then moving on to representative examples of the celebrated novels by Richardson, Fielding, and others of the mid-century and after. We will attempt to understand the emergence in this period of that narrative mode we now think of as the novel and to ponder its origins and functions in the cultural and political contexts of the British 18th Century. We will seek to trace the varieties of narrative approaches and themes that constitute narrative writing in this period. Among the writers we will read are Behn, Haywood, Richardson, Fielding, Smollett, Goldsmith, Johnson, Burney, Sterne, and Austen.
Students thinking of registering for this course should purchase the Penguin edition of Richardson's Clarissa, a million-word monster of a masterpiece that they will need to read over the summer. There will hardly be time to read it the course of a semester, when various other substantial novels will need to be read. I also recommend strongly that prospective students read over the summer a one-volume history of Britain in the 18th Century: J.H. Plumb, England in the Eighteenth Century (Penguin paperback). Two short papers, one or two class presentations (depending upon the size of the group), and one longer paper will be required.