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The University of Southampton

ENGL1089 The Novel

Module Overview

‘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.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • Make informed critical comments on novels and their formal conventions
  • Recognise the characteristics of various critical approaches to the novel
  • Understand the novel as genre and its development around the English-speaking world
  • Understand how cultural history affects how, where, when, by whom texts are produced and received and how readers receive and respond to novels.


You will read a variety of novels and related texts from different historical periods and Anglophone cultures, enabling you to examine the continuities and differences in various forms and developments of the genre. Topics of study might include: the rise of the novel; gender, sexuality and the literary marketplace; novels outside the West; the novel and popular culture. The precise syllabus will vary from year to year.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching and learning on this module will be strongly student-centred. Lectures will introduce you to key texts, historical and critical contexts and critical debates. Seminars will be based in group discussion and will offer guidance related to formally assessed work. They may include small group work, presentations, writing exercises, group projects, debate, guided individual reading, and formative coursework and clear advice. This module includes a Learning Support Hour. This is a flexible weekly contact hour, designed to support and respond to the particular cohort taking the module from year to year. This hour will include (but not be limited to) activities such as language, theory and research skills classes; group work supervisions; assignment preparation and essay writing guidance; assignment consultations; feedback and feed-forward sessions.

Preparation for scheduled sessions40
Follow-up work10
Completion of assessment task40
Wider reading or practice18
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Note:. Students will be encouraged to read widely about the history and form of the novel making use of prominent journals and scholarly publications in the field. The module convenor will contact you with a list of essential weekly primary readings that you will need to borrow or buy.



MethodPercentage contribution
Critical reading  (1250 words) 40%
Essay  (2000 words) 60%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (2000 words) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:

Books and Stationery equipment

Costs for this module will not exceed £100.

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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