English | English Fiction to 1800
L639 | 24479 | Lynch

11:15a – 12:30p TR


When, in 1792, one Charlotte Palmer published a work of fiction
entitled  It Is and Is Not a Novel, her choice of title, both
teasing and fence-sitting, suggested a long history of generic
fluidity.  It also suggested that by 1792 this history was drawing
to a close, as if the moment had arrived when it could be viewed
through the lens of a certain playful self-consciousness.  Our work
this semester will be devoted to the record of remarkable narrative
experiment preceding this moment of generic consolidation: preceding
the moment, which arrived later than we might think, when a
disparate range of fictions—including many calling
themselves "histories"--could be categorized retroactively as
examples of "the" novel and treated as "imaginative  literature."

Early modern writing does a remarkable job of testing our twenty-
first-century expectations about literary kinds and our twenty-first-
century convictions about how those kinds relate respectively to
probability, knowledge, evidence, and fact.  We find factually-based
biographies that draw unabashedly on the conventions of the heroic
romance; we find travel narratives that are part allegory, part
scientific discourse; and, most interestingly for our purposes, we
find fictions that claim to report the truth. These early fictions'
documentary pretenses, their affinities for matters of fact and
transcripts of real life, will be one recurrent concern for this
colloquium.  The overlap between the novelist and the juror in a
legal trial (both of whom, according to Ian Watt, take
a "circumstantial view of life") will be another. And one question
that certainly preoccupies me and informs my design of our syllabus
goes like this: why are the secret truths of female sexuality so
often the referent of  early realism?

The works of fiction or fact that I'm considering for our syllabus
are: Aphra Behn, Oroonoko; the Mary Carleton narratives (including
Francis Kirkman's The Counterfeit Lady Unveil'd); Daniel Defoe, Moll
Flanders or Roxana and maybe A Journal of a Plague Year as well;
Samuel Richardson, Pamela; the anti-Pamela narratives penned by
Eliza Haywood and Henry Fielding; Fielding's Joseph Andrews; John
Cleland's Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure (a.k.a. Fanny Hill);
Charlotte Lennox's The Female Quixote; and Laurence Sterne's
Tristram Shandy.  (Given the length of some of the works on this
list, pre-reading is advisable.)  We'll also be using John Richetti
and Paula Backsheider's excellent anthology, Popular Fiction by
Women, 1660-1730.  Theorists and historians of the novel we'll be
treating include Watt, Catherine Gallagher, April Alliston, Homer
Brown, Michael McKeon, and Lennard Davis; historians of print
culture, of privacy, publicity, and modern secrecy on whom we'll
draw include Jürgen Habermas; Adrian Johns; Ian Hunter; Nancy
Armstrong; and Michel Foucault.   Requirements, in addition to an
enjoyment, or at least tolerance of, unconventional, non-realist
modes of narrating and characterizing: two short papers (6-7 pages
each); an annotated bibliography based on some archival work; an
oral report.