English | Romantic Literature
L741 | 26022 | Lynch

L741   26022 LYNCH (#3)
Romantic Literature

12:20p  3:20p W


Over the last decade, Romanticists have come to recognize,
belatedly, that the student of this period has novels as well as
poems to read.  This seminar introducing Romantic fiction takes its
cue from two premises that are proving crucial to this recognition.

We will be responding, first, to the premise that "the rise of the
novel"--the novel's consolidation as a genre, and its acquisition of
a canon, of a tradition, and of authority in the literary field--
does not occur in the mid-eighteenth century, Ian Watt
notwithstanding.  It is, on the contrary, a phenomenon of the late
eighteenth and early nineteenth century, when "novels" first became
a distinctive category in booksellers' catalogues and when there was
a dramatic upsurge in the number of novels published annually. We
will also be exploring, second, and at greater length, how the
novel's ascendancy at this moment depended on a dialectic between
the two opposing impulses that together Romantically reshaped the
fictional field.  On the one hand, the Romantic novel has at its
core the impulse (also an element in the antiquarian and literary
historical interests of the era) to revive romance--to recover
archaic ways of believing and of suspending disbelief that were felt
to be vanishing into the nation's past. On the other hand, the
novel's "rise" in the generic hierarchy in the early nineteenth
century had much to do with the savvy way in which novelists,
composing what we might call "footnote novels," learned to forge the
strategic alliances that linked their fictions to the new discourses
of the modern fact, and to the nation-making knowledge genre of
history particularly.

To investigate this paradoxical dynamic, we will (armed by
preliminary reading in theories of fiction, probability, and of
history) work our way through a reading list that opens with Horace
Walpole's Castle of Otranto (1765)--which was presented in its first
edition as fact and in its second as fiction--and that has for a
terminus James Hogg's Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified
Sinner (1824)--which begins and ends with an elaborate spoof on
historians' notions of evidence. In between, we'll be reading novels
from a list that at this point includes works by Sophia Lee, Ann
Radcliffe, Maria Edgeworth, Walter Scott, and Mary Shelley.  (And
we'll also be considering, more briefly, poets such as Macpherson,
Chatterton, Byron, and Mary Tighe, so as to engage Romantic poetry's
resurrections of romance.) As we shall see, novelists responded
enthusiastically to the hoaxes that shadowed print culture during
the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries; these novelists were
well aware that the literary history in which they were taking up
their allotted place was in this period something as much forged as
found.  To read them properly therefore might entail doing more than
looking for the history in their fictions.  We need to follow their
lead and look for what is fictional, romantic even, about the
seemingly objective discursive practices of history and criticism.

Requirements: a series of one-page "seminar starters"; a short essay
based on archival research; a formal research paper of about 20 pp.