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 her text. We will pay close attention to the question of how the novel's form and content work together to create literary meaning.
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.