Aspects of the Eighteenth-Century Novel.

Traditional readings of the eighteenth-century novel have tended to focus on canonical texts, such as Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones (1749). More recently, a number of scholars have challenged this approach, suggesting that we need to broaden the scope of texts and contexts studied. This seminar will familiarise students with the points of contention that such studies raise. Some of the questions we will be asking are: What happens to the history of the novel when we take into account the texts that eighteenth-century readers actually enjoyed reading? What is a “theatrical history of the novel” (Marcie Frank 2020)? Alongside these broader questions in literary history, a survey of canonical as well as eccentric texts will introduce students to the kaleidoscopic world of eighteenth-century fiction.

To attend this class, no prior knowledge of eighteenth-century fiction is required. Students should buy and read Charlotte Lennox’s The Female Quixote (1752). All other texts will be made available at the start of the semester. There will be a 20-40 page extract to read each week, ranging from Tobias Smollett’s Peregrine Pickle (1751) to The History of Pompey the Little Or, The Life and Adventures of a Lap-Dog (1751). Patricia Meyer-Spacks’ Novel Beginnings: Experiments in Eighteenth-Century Fiction (2006) is a good starting point for those wanting to read up on the topic before the start of the semester.