‘A novel does not assert anything; a novel searches and poses questions’. The contemporary novelist Milan Kundera describes the novel as an exploratory and engaging form, a way of telling stories that involves readers both in its searches and in the questions it poses. This module gives you the means of participating fully in these acts of literature by raising questions of genre, and considering how such familiar terms as character, setting and plot generate meanings collaboratively with us, their readers.
This module locates the novel historically, to give the curious story of a peculiarly modern form. Our story begins in the eighteenth century, when the novel was effectively invented and sought its fortunes in a new market of leisured middle-class consumers. We trace its history from the boom years during the mid to late nineteenth century to the twentieth century, when the novel comes to compete with other popular cultural media, such as cinema, TV and then the internet. The final section of the module looks at texts in which the novel redefines itself globally, often through new hybrid and experimental forms associated with such movements as modernism and postmodernism. We will also consider the novel in our own time.