What's Novel about the Eighteenth-Century Novel?
"What's Novel about the Eighteenth-Century Novel?"
This course will examine the novel as a genre that, from its uncertain late-seventeenth- and early-eighteenth-century origins, constantly reinvents itself. We will read a range of picaresque, gothic, sentimental, and epistolary novels, including Aphra Behn's Oroonoko, Daniel Defoe's Moll Flanders, Horace Walpole's Castle of Otranto, and Frances Burney's Evelina, among others. As we consider what characterizes these disparate works as novels, we'll also explore some answers to the following questions: What factors contributed to the novel's development as a genre at this time? How did novels respond to anxieties about class mobility, gender roles, and national identity in eighteenth-century Britain? And why were novels frequently described at once as vehicles of education and as sources of moral corruption? By situating literary form in historical context, we will compare competing narratives of the novel's "rise." To build a vocabulary for analyzing novels, we'll discuss brief excerpts from critical studies such as Ian Watt's Rise of the Novel and Nancy Armstrong's Desire and Domestic Fiction. Course requirements will include several short response papers, two essays, and a class presentation.