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ENGL 7670: The Novel and Narrative Theory

Dr. Paula R. Backscheider
9082 Haley Center
(334) 844-9091


"The intention is not to reflect the visible but to make visible." --Paul Klee

This seminar traces some of the earliest English novelists' experimentations with the ways narrative can be used in a culture. In novels as diverse as Aphra Behn's Love Letters between a Nobleman and his Sister and Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, they sought ways to contribute to the most crucial negotiations in national politics. Novels led the way in making "the personal the political," and the novel became the major place for debate about marriage, masculinity, the family, and "the woman question." This seminar is a free-wheeling exploration of some of the most canonical and the most bizarre narratives written in the time that shaped the novel as we know it today and fixed such aspects of it as the perimeters of novelistic discourse for all time. Theoretical readings about the work narrative does in cultures will include short selections from of Lukács, Bakhtin, Warner, McKeon, Jameson, Machery, Benedict Anderson, and Homi Bhabha. Seminar members will be encouraged to make connections between the content of this seminar and the uses of narrative in our own culture. There will be short presentations and a final paper with results report.

Required Texts:

  • Popular Fiction by Women, by Paula Backscheider and John Richetti (Oxford, 1996). ISBN: 0-19-871137-9
  • Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe (Norton 2nd edition, 1994). ISBN: 0-393-96452-3
  • Journal of the Plague Year, by Daniel Defoe (Norton, 1992). ISBN: 0-393-96188-5
  • Clarissa, by Samuel Richardson (Houghton Mifflin). ISBN: 0-395-05164-9
  • Licensing Entertainment, by William Beatty Warner (University of California, 1998). ISBN: 0-520-21296-7
  • Dialogic Imagination, by Mikhail Bakhtin (University of Texas, 1981). ISBN: 0-292-71534-X
  • Origins of the English Novel, by Michael McKeon (Johns Hopkins, 1988). ISBN: 0-8018-37464
  • Course pack including:
    • John Dryden, Absalom and Achitophel (1681)
    • Aphra Behn, Love-Letters between a Nobleman and his Sister (1684-1687)
    • Robert Knox, An Historical Relation of Ceylon (1681)
    • Elizabeth Singer Rowe, The History of Joseph: A Poem (1736)
    • Elizabeth Hands, The Death of Amnon (1798)


January 8: Introduction

15: Behn's Love Letters between a Nobleman and his Sister, pt. 1, and Dryden's Absalom and Achitophel; Chapter 1, pp. 1-18 of Revising Women and pp. 1-89 from Pierre Macherey, A Theory of Literary Production

22: Manley's Queen Zarah and Haywood's Fantomina in Popular Fiction by Women; Warner's Licensing Entertainment, preface and first three chapters

29: Knox's History of Ceylon and Defoe's Robinson Crusoe

Feb. 5: Robinson Crusoe and Aubin's Count Vinevil; Homi K. Bhabha, "The Postcolonial and the Postmodern: The Question of Agency" in Simon During, The Cultural Studies Reader and Benedict Anderson, pp. x-46 from Imagined Communities

12: McKeon's Origins of the English Novel, Introduction, Parts I and II, and chapter 9

19: Presentations on Theory: Ian Watt, Rise of the Novel, chapter 1 and 2; Fredric Jameson, preface, chapters 1 and 3 of The Political Unconscious and chapter 4, "Criticism in History" in The Ideologies of Theory, vol. 1; Edward Said, "Narrative and Social Space" from chapter 2 of Culture and Imperialism

26: Defoe's Journal of the Plague Year

March 5: Hands' Death of Amnon and Rowe's Friendship in Death and Joseph

12: Bakhtin, Dialogic Imagination, essays 1, 2, and 4

19: Barker's Love Intrigues and Davys' Reformed Coquet

April 2: Richardson's Clarissa

9: " "

16: Roundtable on contemporary issues in Clarissa and related criticism

23: Warner, chapters 4 and 5

30 and our Exam date: Presentations