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The Novel EN3070

This course aims to provide students with some historical and critical perspectives on an evolving aesthetic form central to English Studies.

Focusing on both works originally written in English and ones in translation, the course surveys selected novels in three broad chronological groupings: eighteenth and nineteenth-century realist novels; early 20th-century modernist novels; and finally a wide-ranging exploration of the major themes and characteristic narrative strategies associated with ‘anti-realist’ or ‘postmodern’ works of fiction in the later 20th/ early 21st centuries.

The course encourages students to consider some relevant theoretical questions on the nature of narrative and the role of the reader, together with critical writing on a variety of topics, ranging from mimesis to genre. Attention will also be given to narrative techniques, including characterisation, use of imagery, narrative voice, scene-making - the strategies of fiction whereby novelists develop individual structures that enable them to say something new in fictional terms.

Learning outcomes

If you complete the course successfully, you should:

  • Be able to discuss and critically evaluate debates about the development and nature of the novel from its beginnings to the present day
  • Be able to recognise, understand and explain the complexity of the relationships between the formal and thematic concerns of particular novels and their historical, social and cultural contexts
  • Be able to analyse and explain how individual novelists employ specific techniques in order to serve their particular narrative strategies
  • Be able to compare how different novelists have used the novel to address recurrent thematic concerns and exploited the possibilities of the form in different ways

Essential reading

  • Defoe, Moll Flanders
  • Laclos, Les Liaisons Dangereuses
  • Zola, Germinal
  • Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
  • Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment
  • James, The Turn of the Screw
  • Woolf, To the Lighthouse
  • Nabokov, Lolita
  • Robbe-Grillet, In the Labyrinth
  • Calvino, If, On a Winter’s Night, a Traveller
  • Rushdie, Midnight’s Children