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Topics in 18th Century Novel

ENGL 245.301
instructor(s):
MW 3-4:30

New money -- the nouveaux riches -- begins to appear with the rise of the middle classes. Literature about this new class, often comic and satirical, follows closely, beginning in the second half of the seventeenth century. We will examine some of the drama -- Moliere's "Bourgeois Gentleman", Sheridan's "School for Scandal", Wilde's "An Ideal Husband," Granville-Barker's "The Voysey Inheritance." Most stories about the nouveau riche are in novels, starting with Defoe's "Roxana": we will discuss this work and a number of later examples, including Burney's "Evelina," Austen's "Pride and Prejudice," Benjamin Disraeli's "Sybil," and Trollope's "The Way We Live Now." For comparative purposes, I will introduce a few American works: Howell's "The Rise of Silas Lapham," James's "Washington Square," Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby," and (the most critical treatment of all the nouveaux riches) Lewis's "Babbitt." The class will examine the idea of 'new money' not simply as an economic and social problem, but as a literary and artistic phenomenon as well. The nouveaux riches are 'spacious in the possession of dirt,' wealth that often derives from colonial exploitation in Asia, Africa, and the Americas, so that we will find that the arriviste is often suspect as an outsider, a foreigner, even an American. Yet the nouveaux riches have an artistic presence (money always buys taste); hence a final theme of the semester will be the patronage of this ever expanding social class.