Course Title: CL 381 (28515) = E 392M (31250)

The Eighteenth-Century Novel: Narrative Contention

Instructor: Katherine Arens
Germanic Studies
E. P. Schoch 3.102

Course Description:

The eighteenth century saw some of the first European bestsellers -- novels from England, France, and Germany that were rapidly translated and read across national borders. This course will introduce clusters of these novels (many in excerpt) to show the evolution of genres (epistolary novel, "Robinsonades," Bildungsroman, sentimental novel) and the social types represented in them, and how those types travelled across national borders.

"The novel," however, is an ill-defined genre, in formal terms. Therefore, the class will trace the novel as part of the evolving public sphere in Europe (the various forms of the novel as speech genres (in Bakhtin’s sense), as conventions of social interaction on which new forms of subjectivity are formed, so that the novel emerges as the primary vehicle for documenting and forming (or destroying) new social hierarchies.

The novels will thus be addressed as they represent types of interaction (and most discussed with attention to gender differences of author and character): e.g. travel into the unknown (Insel Felsenburg, Robinson Crusoe, Sentimenal Journey, Werther), movement up the social hierarchy (for the females, Pamela and Moll Flanders, Das Fräulein von Sternheim, Die schwedische Gräfin; for the males, Gil Blas, Tristram Shandy, Wilhelm Meister, Candide, Anton Reiser); class structure (Liaisons dangereuses, Julie, Vicar of Wakefield); withdrawal and horror (Ortranto, Udolpho, Monk, Justine, Nachtwachen). The social interactions will be addressed as narrative types, through close critical readings of narrative strategies; these narrative types will then be correlated with social-historical conflice. The goal of these readings is to show how characters’ relationships and identity politics change over the course of the century, as Europe moves from a court-centered to a city-centered social world.

Ideally, students who take this course should be able to read novels in more than one language, but, in practice, the novels that will be read all the way through will be ordered in the originals and in English.


Assignments and Grading