English 125A

The English Novel (Defoe through Scott)

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Spring 2018 Sorensen, Janet
TTh 12:30-2 310 Hearst Mining


The period from which our reading draws has been credited with the “rise of the novel”—the emergence of the then new genre, the “novel,” so familiar to us today. While critics have qualified and revised that claim, the texts we’ll read do experiment with new forms of prose fiction and new ideas about what is worth representing. As we read these works and track their innovations, we shall be especially interested in considering what it was that some found dangerous about them. Like surfing the internet, novel reading wasn’t something you wanted the “impressionable”—from teenagers to women—to do alone, or maybe at all. Might the perceived threat have had something to do with early novels’ connection to romance and the erotic? Might it have to do with what one critic calls the “narrative transvestitism” of the early novel—in which men write books featuring female heroines who will describe, in an innovative, frank prose style, how a woman really feels? Highly conscious of these debates, eighteenth-century writers responded to them in their generic experiments, deploying rhetorical and thematic means to legitimate their writing, appealing to (and sometimes transforming) moral discourse, and creating hybrids of new and classical writing, all offering complex new forms of writing and, some would argue, consciousness.

Course Requirements will include quizzes, participation, including a group presentation, two papers, a mid-term exam, and a final. 

Course texts will likely include: Eliza Haywood: Love in Excess; Daniel Defoe: Roxana; Samuel Richardson: Pamela; Henry Fielding: Shamela and Joseph Andrews, Horace Walpole: The Castle of Otranto; Jane Austen: Northanger Abbey.

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

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