For too long we have emphasized Literature's power to figure, to trope and to construct fantasy. Critics and readers of novels have understood realism as a technique of creating a virtual reality that is not (real). But this ignores the novel's hold upon reality. It is time to strip the quotes that the linguistic turn in literary studies has put around reality. Only then can we recover how novel writers used fiction to investigate reality. (c.f. Bruno Latour, An Inquiry Into the Modes of Existence) But what, you might well ask, do you mean by reality? That is always a difficult question and must be handled with care. In reading a series of important novels, written between 1605 and 1872, we will read some of the literary theorists of this question (Eric Auerbach; Ian Watt, Bruno Latour). But our main attention will be directed as tracing the strategies by which six writers use novelistic narrative to investigate some aspect of reality. In Don Quixote, Cervantes thematicizes the power of novel-induced belief to displace non-novelistic reality. In Eliza Haywood’s Fantomina the power of fantasy collides with the embodied power of the heroines all too real body. In writing Joseph Andrews “written in imitation of the Manner of Cervantes”, Henry Fielding uses Cervantes’ style to challenge the first person bias and high moral seriousness of Richardson’s Pamela. Sterne's Tristram Shandy embeds reality in the mental associations that are both free and constrained. In Oliver Twist, Dickens incorporates the dialects and ideolects of London to deliver a withering---and he insists, all too real---exposé of the fate of the orphan in industrializing England. In George Eliot's "study of provincial life," the interdependence of the lives, places, intentions and actions in Middlemarch figures reality as a social system as complex as those conceptualized by classics of 19th century sociology (Compt, Weber, Marx).
1.Migel de Cervantes: /The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha/, Part I, 1605. (week 1-2) Please use on of the complete Samuel Putnam translations.
2.Eliza Haywood, /Fantomina, /1725 and Henry Fielding, Joseph Andrews: Written in Imitation of the Manner of Cervantes [Oxford World Classic, ed. By Douglas Brooks-Davies] (week 3)
3.Lawrence Sterne: The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, 1759 [Norton Critical Edition is recommended, ed. By Howard Anderson] (week 4-5)
4.Charles Dickens: Oliver Twist: the Parish Boy's Progress, 1838 [Dover Thrift Edition] (week 6)
5.George Eliot: Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life, 1871-72 [Penguin Classic] (week 7-9)
Requirements: one seminar presentation (on literary text), one seminar presentation (on critical text) and a final term paper. Of course, you must also enjoy reading!