Readings in Narrative Literature to 1800 (Pre-1800)

L628 — Spring 2020

Nicholas Williams
Days and Times
2:30p - 3:45p MW (4 CR)
Course Description

TOPIC: The Romantic Novel

In the usual stories of the rise of the novel, as the development of a genre gradually refining its techniques for representing everyday reality and individual subjectivity (Watt) or epistemological and moral distinctions (McKeon), the Romantic novel (with the exception of Austen) plays only a minor role.  With their sometimes explicit political and documentary agendas, their indulgence of unrealistic gothic elements, and their penchant for sensibility which overflows the bounds of subjective continence, Romantic novels can themselves seem a mistaken episode in the otherwise orderly unfolding of realism.  But, of course, an account which dwells on this episode also has the power to reshape that dominant narrative and case it in different lights.

We’ll look at examples of the leading types of fiction in the period: the Jacobin novel (Godwin’s Caleb Williams, Wollstonecraft’s The Wrongs of Woman), the Anti-Jacobin novel (Amelia Opie’s Adeline Mowbray), the gothic (Matthew Lewis’s The Monk, Charlotte Dacre’s Zofloya), the novel of sensibility (Elizabeth Inchbald’s A Simple Story, Mary Hays’ The Memoirs of Emma Courtney), the national tale (Lady Morgan’s The Wild Irish Girl) and even some Austenian realism.  My goal here is to survey the variety of the period, rather than to forward a thesis, but we’ll also look at some of the important criticism (Katie Trumpener, Tilottama Rajan, Claudia Johnson, etc.) that has turned to this material to recast the novel genre.  Writing assignments will be one short piece connected to a class presentation and a conference length essay (around 12 pp.) at the end.

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