English 125A

The English Novel (Defoe through Scott)

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Spring 2012 Sorensen, Janet
Sorensen, Janet
TTh 12:30-2 155 Donner Lab


This class explores eighteenth-century British innovations in narrative prose writings that we have come to call novels. A scientific revolution, broadened financial speculation, expanding empire, changing notions of gender, and new philosophies of mind challenged old ways of knowing, of ordering society, and of interacting socially. How did experiments in fiction writing enable new ways of knowing and new ways of acting virtuously in a society in which such things were open for debate? Haunted by fiction’s connection to “lower” forms of writing, writers—many of them women--also negotiated the tricky new terrain of writing for a public print market. We shall examine their rhetorical and thematic means of legitimating their writing--appealing to (and sometimes transforming) moral discourse, creating hybrids of new and classical writing, deploying authorized genres of writing, such as history. Yet all of them resist easy divisions between legitimate and illegitimate, offering instead complex new forms of writing and, some would argue, consciousness; our work will be to identify and analyze some of these.

This course satisfies the pre-1800 requirement for the English major.

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