[Contributed by PVA]
Winter Session, 1969-1970: Term One
A major paper of 2,000 words on one of the topics below. Please adhere to the style guide of The Modern Language Association in all matters of format, including double-spacing.
1. Jane Austen "does her business of delineating the surface of the lives of genteel English people curiously well. There is a Chinese fidelity, a miniature delicacy, in the painting. She ruffles her reader by nothing vehement, disturbs him by nothing profound. The passions are perfectly unknown to her: she rejects even a speaking acquaintance with that stormy sisterhood [i. e., Charlotte and Emily Brontë]." Discuss with reference to Emma, Mansfield Park, or Persuasion.
2. The matter of Sir Walter Scott's novels is as different from the matter of Austen's as chalk from cheese; and so is his method of telling his tales. Discuss with reference to any three novels on the course.
3. Sir Walter Scott wrote The Heart of Midlothian to "demonstrate the possibility of rendering a fictitious personage interesting by mere dignity of mind and rectitude of principle, assisted by unpretending good sense and temper, without any of the beauty, grace, talent, accomplishment and wit, to which a heroine of romance is supposed to have a prescriptive right." Was he entirely successful? How does Jeanie Deans compare with ordinary romantic expectations of a heroine? Compare her with Diana Vernon in Rob Roy, the Countess Isabelle in Quentin Durward, and/or Lucy Ashton in The Bride of Lammermoor.
4. Sir Walter Scott's treatment of history in The Heart of Midlothian, Old Mortality, and Quentin Durward.
5. "Physically there is a vagueness about Austen's chief characters: They are hard to visualize." Discuss the truth of this statement.
6. "Pictures of perfection as you know make me sick and wicked" ("Letter to Cassandra Austen, 23 March 1817). Discuss Jane Austen's characterization, her predecessors, and the realities of life reflected in her work.
7. Clara Reeve has said that to unite the merits of the ancient Romance and the modern (late eighteenth-century) novel "there is required a sufficient degree of the marvelous to excite attention; enough of the manners of real life to give an air of probability to the work; sand enough of the pathetic to engage the heart in its behalf." Can one say that Scott's novels achieved Reeve's ambition? Read Scott's "Essay on Romance" in his Miscellaneous Prose Works.
8. Hardy has said, "The writer's problem is how to strike the balance between the uncommon and the ordinary so as on the one hand to give interest, on the other to give reality." Discuss Austen, Scott, or Dickens in light of this statement. Make what comparisons you wish.
9. "Jane Eyre is sheer melodrama; so is not Wuthering Heights."
10. Dickens shifts the point of view from which he tells his stories; sometimes he shifts it in the story itself. Compare point of view in Martin Chuzzlewit, Bleak House, and Great Expectations. What is achieved through the particular angle(s) of narration in each story? Consult E. M. Forster's Aspects of the Novel.
11. Dickens's use of symbolism in two of the following: Martin Chuzzlewit, Bleak House, and Great Expectations.
12. If the novel is "a portrait of life," how lifelike is Dickens's portrait? Discuss.
13. Apply the same critical yardstick mentioned in topic 12 to the Brontës.
14. Jane Austen and the eighteenth-century Comedy of Manners.
15. Compare Fielding's "formula" with Dickens's technique.
16. Discuss Dickens's use of symbolism.
17. Compare Dickens's attitudes towards the city (i. e., London) and the country.
18. Building melodrama through emotionalism and sentimentality.
19. Dickens's characters: poetic or realistic?
20. Caricature: its effectiveness in Dickens.
21. Jane Austen's applying the "Comedy of Manners" rules of true and false wits to her novel(s).
22. The pattern of retreat from Voltaire's Candide to Jane Austen.
23. Anne Radcliffe and the Gothic Novel.
24. Scott's Historical Novel combines the realistic and romantic.
25. The Pamela stereotype compared with Austen's heroines: subtlety of character presentation.
26. George Eliot's Middlemarch as a popular Victorian novel.
1. A comparison between Anthony Trollope and Henry Fielding: the irony of the human portrait, the function of the novel, or differences in their techniques.
2. Symbolism in Hardy or Conrad: their use of landscape, nature, people, or buildings.
3. The narrative technique of Hardy or Conrad.
4. David Herbert Lawrence: Prophet and Preacher.
5. George Eliot: Her moral philosophy and her conception of the novel's purpose.
6. Contrast Conrad's Lord Jim to a work such as Under Two Flags to demonstrate that Lord Jim is not a mere "boys' adventure story."
7. The theme of alienation and communication breakdown as responsible for the catastrophe in a Conrad novel.
8. George Meredith: the novel as high comedy.
Aldridge. Critics of Modern Fiction.
Allott, Miriam. Novelists on Novels.
Allen, Walter. The English Novel. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1954.
Baker, Ernest A. The History of the English Novel. London: H. F. & G. Witherby, 1929, Rpt. 1942.
Daiches, David. "Scott's Redgauntlet." From Jane Austen to Joseph Conrad: Essays Collected in Memory of James T. Hillhouse, ed. R. C. Rathburn and M. Steinmann, Jr. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Pp. 46-59.
Elliot, George. "Silly Women Novelists." The Westminster Review.
Ford, Boris, ed. Pelican Guide to English Literature, Vol. 6: From Dickens to Hardy. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1983.
Forster, Edward M. Aspects of the Novel. Harmondsworth: Penguin, rpt. 1974.
Guber, Sandra M., and Susan Gubar. The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination. New Have: Yale University Press, 1979.
Higgins, Elizabeth J., and Richard A. Long. Reading the Novel: From Austen to E. M. Forster. New York: Vantage Press, 1982.
Lovet and Hughes. History of the Novel in England.
McCullough, Bruce. Representative English Novelists: Defoe to Conrad. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1946.
Nadel, Ira B., and W. E. Fredeman, eds. Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol. 21: Victorian Novelists before 1885. Detroit: Gale Research, 1983.
Orwell, George. "Charles Dickens." Inside the Whale, 1940.
Stang, Richard. The Theory of the Novel in England: 1850 to 1870. New York: Columbia University Press, 1959. PR 871 S8 1959
Tillotson, Kathleen. Novels of the 1840s. Oxford: Clarendon, 1954.
Van Ghent, Dorothy. The English Novel: Form and Function. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1954.
Watt, Ian, ed. The Victorian Novel: Essays in Criticism. New York: Oxford University Press, 1971.
Wagenknecht, Edward. The Cavalcade of the English Novel. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1954.
Journal articles in Studies in the Novel--e. g. James Kerr's "Scott's Dreams of the Past: The Bride of Lammermoor as Political Fantasy." 18, 2 (Summer, 1986): 125-142.
Last modified 1 January 2002