Spring 1999

CL 381 (Unique # 28515) = E 392M (Unique # 31250)

The Eighteenth-Century Novel:
Narrative Contention

Assignments and Grading


The assignments in this course are designed to introduce the novels of the eighteenth century, how they have been read in traditional scholarship, and how they might be read in a more post-structuralist or new historicist vein.

Novels from France, Germany, and England will be mixed because literature was translated rapidly in the eighteenth century, and because the novels treated usually qualify as "bestsellers," either nationally or internationally.



FOR THEORY READINGS: be ready to summarize the main approach (do a precis, if at all in doubt -- we’ll do them on the board in class), and then to outline how they are theories of reading. In other words, how does each treat novelistic prose?

FOR LITERATURE READINGS: I am relying on your self-sufficiency to cope with reading initial sections of novels. Exceprts will be passed out in photocopy; full novels ordered as indicated on lists. Each class will start with a student presentation (see below) about how the text will/ will not fit the suggested framework from that section. Note that, in most cases, there are texts from different language groups. The rest of the class will be spent in one or more close readings, to start on how each text sets up a particular milieu and reading problematic.



**THREE PRECIS ASSIGNMENTS FOR CL381 are "Interpretive Precis"(see attached description of Precis), applying one or another of the theories read to an authentic text.

The goal of these assignments is twofold:

Grading of Precis is indicated on the attached sheet.



The oral text introductions are two- to three-minute introductions to the texts that will be discussed as part of the case studies. There will be a sign-up sheet passed around in class for you to schedule your presentations.

Content: Your mission is to set up a "horizon of expectation" for the reading practice and thematics involved. You are, in essence, speaking a draft of a precis.

**These assignments are probably less than 400 words each! You run over, you will NOT get credit for a successful assignment. Otherwise, each one is credit/no credit.


The two short papers are close readings of texts, with citations from the texts, but no other research. To clarify the goal of this assignment, let me quote from the deacription of CL's Qualifying Examination, about text interpretations:

The goal of the text interpretation is to demonstrate a student's ability to work closely with texts, within the disciplinary expectations set by the student's specialty areas. Like the theory answer, then, the "text interpretation" must be an essay, but one which eludicates how a particular text works for a reader: as a representative of a historically-recoverable repertoire of language and stylistic registers, genre traditions, sociopolitical needs, philosophies, and the like. Evidence of an ability to "close read" a text correctly (thus demonstrating a student's linguistic competence) must be clearly apparent, and then placed in a larger literary context (a particular genre, problem, or other program), thus demonstrating a student's understanding of a national literary tradition and its history.

In writing a text interpretation, then, the student must introduce his or her essay with an explicit statement of the strategy or method to be used to approach the text; the essay will also contain (usually as part of both introduction and conclusion) a justification or explanation why that method particularly suits the text under discussion.

This description does not mean that the student's interpretation has to represent a particular school's procedures or agenda in approaching a text. Nonetheless, even an eclectic approach to a text has explicit goals in elucidating how the text speaks to the reader -- an intended readership for the interpretation. Therefore, the text interpretation needs to be approached systematically: the student must tell the reader (and evaluator) of the examination what norms and standards the student believes his or her essay represents. The text interpretation must thus set and fulfill its own goals as an interpretive essay for its audience. Like the theory essay, then, the text interpretation will be graded primarily according to how consistently and lucidly it presents and follows the norms it sets within existing professional discussions, and secondarily by specific items of content and by how well the content is unfolded into an interpretation.

Translated into a paper, this will include a proper bibliography, typing, and citation form, no matter how brief. You may choose any of the texts we read, not only those you have done a precis on.


The long paper may be based on one of your precis or short papers. It will be done in two steps: the abstract and bibliography (FIRST DRAFT), and then the finished paper. Due dates as indicated on syllabus.

THE FIRST DRAFT consists of an ABSTRACT (see attached description), a BIBLIOGRAPHY, and a 1-paragraph statement of HOW YOU GOT THE BIBLIOGRAPHY.

The FULL PAPER is 15 pages, in MLA style with full bibliography and page cites. Turn the abstract and preliminary bibliography in with the finished product, so that I can check for consistency and evoltuion.

Grading as for precis.