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ENAM 0350 Eighteenth-Century Fiction

The emergence in the eighteenth-century of a new form of writing known as the novel was perhaps the most significant and distinctive change in modern English literature. Now often taken for granted as a pre-eminent literary mode, the early novel by contrast was a source of debate and anxiety about issues of morality, propriety, sentimentality, and about the dissemination of the literary arts for mass consumption.

Eighteenth-century fictional prose writing served as a testing ground for experimental new modes, from autobiography, narratives of slavery and servitude, religious conversion testimonies and confessional writings, to bawdy, comedies of manners, erudite theology, natural philosophy, and what we now recognize as the fully-fledged modern novel. Changing conceptions of literary authority as well as innovative narrative and rhetorical techniques allowed British authors to develop new modes of fiction which reflected the experience of a vastly expanded readership across the English-speaking world.

The course explores the first practitioners of the novel, examining their experimental fictions in wider literary and cultural contexts. It also explores the sources and influences which contributed to the development of the early novel.

Sample Topics:

  • Defoe, Robinson Crusoe, Moll Flanders
  • Swift, Gulliver’s Travels
  • Richardson, Pamela
  • Henry Fielding, Joseph Andrews, Tom Jones
  • Sarah Fielding, David Simple
  • Smollett, Peregrine Pickle
  • Sterne, Tristram Shandy
  • Burney, Evelina
  • Wollstonecraft, Mary: A Fiction

Introductory Reading:

  • Backscheider, P.R. and C. Ingrassia, eds, A Companion to the Eighteenth-Century English Novel and Culture. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009
  • Hunter, J. Paul, Before Novels New York: Norton, 1990
  • Richetti, John J., ed., The Cambridge Companion to the Eighteenth-Century Novel. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996
  • Watt, Ian, The Rise of the Novel. Studies in Defoe, Richardson and Fielding. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, new edn, 2001
You never know what you'll find
One afternoon, I left St. Michael's Hall with the desire for a cookie and thought I'd pick one up before heading back to the Bodleian. The shop around...
Gabrielle Linnell, Spring Semester 2012, Wellesley College