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ENGL6141 Fiction Before Austen

Module Overview

At the start of the eighteenth century, the novel as we now know it did not exist. Since the 1980s the idea of the 'Rise of the Novel' has been rehearsed and rehearsed again as critics have explored new narratives and new approaches to narrative fiction. The once all-male line-up of great eighteenth-century fiction is now being recast not simply by claiming lost female 'greats' – the predecessors and contemporaries of Jane Austen - but by rethinking our understanding of fiction and its place in eighteenth-century culture. This module invites you to explore some of the issues raised by recent attempts to re-map the rise of eighteenth-century fiction.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

• Introduce students to key critical debates concerning fiction, the novel and romance narratives in the eighteenth century • Engage with canonical and non-canonical fiction from the period • Enable students to research a specific work or group of works of fiction from the period and to establish and analyze appropriate contextual and theoretical frameworks

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • The major critical and historical approaches to eighteenth-century fiction
  • The specific critical and historical approaches needed to engage with an individual text
  • The complex relations between individual works of fiction and between fiction and other forms of cultural production
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • carry out your own research on a topic
  • Demonstrate intellectual independence in your writing.
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • analyse complex literary texts and their contexts
  • work directly from primary sources
  • critically evaluate secondary sources
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • criticise current critical debate and apply that criticism to individual works of fiction
  • make connections between fiction and other forms of cultural production from across the eighteenth century
  • evaluate non-canonical works of fiction and their significance to current accounts of eighteenth-century fiction

Syllabus

At the start of the eighteenth century, the novel as we now know it did not exist. Since the 1980s the idea of the 'Rise of the Novel', first conceptualised by Ian Watt, has been rehearsed and rehearsed again as critics have explored new narratives and new approaches to narrative fiction. The once all-male line-up of great eighteenth-century fiction is now being recast not simply by claiming lost female 'greats' – the predecessors and contemporaries of Jane Austen - but by rethinking our understanding of fiction and its place in eighteenth-century culture. While some critics have looked back to the late seventeenth century, exploring the early contexts of fiction writing, the uncertain position of fiction between truth and lies, and the relationships between 'novel' and 'romance', other critics have proffered Marxist re-readings of Ian Watt's traditional canon, turning to the vast number of non-canonical texts in order to raise questions of literary value, femininity and sexuality, or focusing upon fiction as a central act of cultural production. This module invites you to explore some of these different approaches, raised by recent attempts to re-map the rise of eighteenth-century fiction. Authors are likely to include Eliza Haywood, Daniel Defoe, Charlotte Lennox, Ann Radcliffe and Jane Austen; we will be drawing on conduct books, criminal biographies and contemporary journalism by male and female writers; and we will use some weeks to discuss non-canonical fiction from the period. The aim overall is to provide you with a firm grounding in the history and development of the novel form over the long eighteenth century.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Seminars and presentations will look closely at individual texts and improve students’ abilities to articulate a position and engage in academic debates. The methods aim to introduce new works and ideas, to improve students’ ability to read unfamiliar and challenging texts and to organize ideas into written and oral arguments. You will participate in researching promising non-canonical texts for discussion in later weeks of the module and you will lead a group discussion about one of these texts: both of these activities will help to prepare you to produce a research-led essay which combines detailed critical analysis with a firm awareness of larger critical and historical debates. Teaching methods include: • Seminars • Individual sessions to develop an essay topic • Office hours for individual feedback on essays Learning activities include • Experience of organizing and running a seminar • Individual study and research • Researching and presenting non-canonical texts

TypeHours
Teaching24
Independent Study126
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

detailed suggested reading.

Richard Kroll, ed (1998). The English Novel, 1700 to Fielding, & The English Novel, Smollett to Austen. 

J. Paul Hunter. Before Novels [intro]. 

John Richetti, ed (1996). The Cambridge companion to the eighteenth-century novel. 

John Skinner (2001). An Introduction to Eighteenth-Century Fiction: Raising the Novel. 

Ian Watt. The Rise of the Novel (intro). 

M.M. Bakhtin. The Dialogic Imagination [chps. 1&2]. 

John J. Richetti. Popular Fiction before Richardson [intro]. 

Lennard J. Davis. Factual Fictions [chps. 1&2]. 

Assessment

Assessment Strategy

There will be no non-contributory assessments in this module, but classroom activities and individual discussions, should help you to judge how you are progressing in the module

Summative

MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (4000 words) 100%

Referral

MethodPercentage contribution
Resubmit assessments 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Costs

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 should not exceed £40, for books and stationery equipment.

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 www.calendar.soton.ac.uk.

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