In this course we will examine the development of the novel from its origin in a multiplicity of diverse literary genres in the eighteenth century to its Victorian incarnation as a “realist” and middle class form. We will then go on to examine the appropriation of the novel as high art by Modernist writers and its subsequent return to its multi-genre roots later in the twentieth century. We will trace changes in the novel’s treatment of themes such as publicity and privacy, the role of gender and sexuality in social life, the significance of monetary exchange, and the proper relation between the author and his or her text. We will pay close attention to questions of realism, and will think about how the novel’s form and content work together to create literary meaning. First surveying the main critical narratives of the novel's "rise" or development, we will move on to see how the concept of advertising – including advertisements for novels and representations of advertising within novels - might offer us a counter-narrative to more conventional interpretations of the novel and its origins. We will also spend some time examining the material forms of some novels and will learn about how they were published and circulated.
Readings will include novels by authors like Defoe, Richardson, Edgeworth, Austen, Gaskell, Thackeray, Dickens, Eliot, James, Woolf, and Naipaul. Because these novels tend to be long, the reading load will necessarily be fairly heavy. In order to develop a set of critical terms we'll also read short sections from theorists like Watt, McKeon, and Habermas. Course requirements may include two essays, a short project focused around a novel from Van Pelt Library's Singer-Mendenhall Collection, regular attendance, and regular participation in discussion.