English | English Fiction to 1800
L639 | 28092 | Nash


L639 28092  NASH (#3)
English Fiction to 1800

11:15a – 12:30p TR

In a current Call For Papers for a Special Issues of Eighteenth-
Century Fiction to be published in the Fall of 2011, John Richetti
writes:
What place for formalism?
Essays are invited for this issue that address one or more of these
questions: Is there a place for "formalist" criticism in the study
of the eighteenth-century novel? Given the current dominance of
historical, thematic, and cultural studies approaches to the
eighteenth-century novel, can we usefully speak of novelistic form?
Does the novel as a capacious and almost anti-formal "form" leave
any space for formalist approaches? Does the sheer variety of
narrative types that constitute the novel in the eighteenth century
render the notion of "novelistic form" meaningless? Or is there in
the period an emerging and dominant formal pattern, a consensus
about the properly novelistic form of narrative fiction, that is
worth extracting and articulating?
We will use Richetti’s loose taxonomy of critical method to organize
our conversation about fiction before Austen, moving between those
approaches Richetti contends are “currently dominant” (historical,
thematic, and cultural) and the one (formalism) his special issue
presumably will make a case for.  This will prompt us, I suppose, to
reflect on what relation formalism bears to those “other”
approaches; and, it seems likely, to reflect as well on what
relation it bears to itself—is “New Formalism” a return to the
Formalism of days gone by or a redeployment of the familiar term in
a new context.  There is a very good chance that my own interests—
which these days increasingly turn toward issues of animality and
ecology and consideration of how posthumanist theory might prompt
reconsideration of familiar eighteenth-century texts—will find
expression in the course, but the primary goal will be to
familiarize students with current trends in critical discussion of
fiction before 1800, while reading an array of significant fictions
from the period.  If you are not familiar with the fiction of this
period, you should be advised that the narratives tend to range from
the very brief to the very short, and that the rhythms (and diction)
of eighteenth-century prose are not always the rhythms (and diction)
of the current day.  We will read texts by Cavendish, Behn, Defoe,
Haywood, Fielding, Richardson, Sterne and Walpole, as well as recent
criticism.  Students will be asked to write several short papers.