ENGL 329 A: Rise of the English Novel

Meeting Time: 
TTh 10:30am - 12:20pm
CDH 139
Nikolai Popov

Syllabus Description:

English 329 - Au 2019  I   Instructor: Nikolai Popov

Meeting Time: TTh 10:30am - 12:20pm  I  Location: CDH 139 

            The novel has been the dominant genre in English and world literature for more than three centuries. Henry James called it “the most independent, most elastic, most prodigious of literary forms.” For R. P. Blackmur, the novel gives “theoretical form to life.” “European society,” says philosopher E. M. Cioran, “is the society of the novel. Europeans are the children of the novel.” How did the novel rise to such preeminence? This course will explore the rise of the English novel through Don Quixote by Cervantes and Tristram Shandy by Sterne, two of the great early novels, possibly the greatest ever. We’ll also look at excerpts from Bunyan, Defoe, Richardson and others. Discussions will focus on the poetics of the novel as a literary genre and the problems associated with its emergence in England. We’ll study the connections between empiricism, individualism, and the rise of middle-class values and mentality: the English novel responded to those broad social currents with narratives modeling human behavior and destiny, virtue and vice, curiosity and quirkiness. We’ll also explore the formal connections between the novel and other genres (epic, history, satire), and the role of humor and parody in the emergence of the novel. Our main objective is to read the primary texts, grasp the large literary issues, and learn the critical vocabulary related to the genre of the novel. Successful completion of the course will enable you to understand better the subsequent history of the novel, the rise of realism, and how the unfinished form of the novel encourages aesthetic experimentation. 329 is an upper-level English course with a substantial reading load. (The three novels (recent Penguin edns), critical introductions included, add up to more than 2000 pages; the 329 Files on Canvas add another 200 pages, i.e., the reading total is more than 2,000 pages of non-trivial reading. If you start from scratch you’d have to read more than 250 pages per week. It’s doable but it takes time.)

            Requirements and grading:  reading log, brief research tasks, quizzes, participation, attendance (25% of your course grade), in-class final (25%), and two or three short essays (25% each). A blueprint for the reading log can be found at the end of this document. If your reading log is diligent and perceptive I may waive the first short essay. The in-class final will contain review questions related to the discussions in class, and recognition questions (you’ll have to identify the place and purpose of a few short passages from the works we’ve read). Failure to hand in an essay or missing the final will result in a very severe downgrade (more than 25% of the final grade or 1 grade unit).

            Copies of the novels will be available at the UBookstore. (If you already own a different edition you can use it.) All three novels are large and are essentially related to the book form so electronic editions on handheld devices won’t do: you need to hold the real paper-and-ink thing in your hands. 329 Canvas Files will be available at the beginning of the quarter.

            Please read carefully the tentative/!/ schedule below. Dates and topics may change as we progress but the order of readings will be the same. Don Quixote, Joseph Andrews, and Tristram Shandy must be read in their entirety (I may allow you to skip some of TS but not much!). I can’t give you exact page numbers because people will be using different editions. NB:  a 600-page novel (Tristram Shandy) may not seem a big task numerically but that’s 600 pages of eighteenth-century English, and for many of you it will be a slow read, slower than a Victorian novel, much slower than anything contemporary. (Don Quixote is longer but most of you will be reading a translation in contemporary English translation, and that will go much faster.) The “excerpts” (from The Pilgrim’s Progress, Robinson Crusoe, Pamela, and Gargantua and Pantagruel range from a couple to a few dozen pages each. Time management is of the essence. The books--and excerpts--we’ll read are absolutely worth reading in their entirety. We have only ten weeks to cover all that magnificent material, and one of our important jobs is to learn HOW to read those authors. (We’ll be dealing with unsurpassed masterpieces of prose fiction, and I’m sure that this won’t be your first and only contact with them: the books we cover as fragments you can read in their entirety on your own.)

Tentative Schedule



Discussion Topics



General Intro: Novel, Novella, Romance, Roman. Other related concepts (history, epic, life).

1/ Start reading (or re-reading) Don Quixote.

2/ read the Intro to Ian Watt’s Rise of the Novel and the first chapter (Canvas, Files).



Rise of the Novel: generic and historical problems. English and continental views (Watt, Bakhtin, Alter).

1/Keep (re)reading Don Quixote: you should be able to finish Part I* by 10/14 and will be quizzed! That’s roughly the first half of the book, pages 1-479 in the Rutherford tr.

2/ Read excerpt from Lazarillo (Canvas, Files).


Cervantes, Don Quixote

DQ, Part I. Conception and shape. Prologue. First Sally. Genres: chivalric romance, picaresque, pastoral, satire. Novellas.

Read Kundera’s essay (Canvas, Files).


Don Quixote, cont.

DQ, Part I, cont. First and Second Sally. Characters and action: Conjoined characters. Mirror characters. Humor.

Read Alter (Canvas, Files: optional).


Don Quixote, cont.

DQ, Part I, cont. Characters and action in Part I, cont. Narrative voices, sources, and levels of authority: Author, narrator, translator.

By 10/22 you should have finished the second half of Don Quixote and will be quizzed on it.


Don Quixote, cont.

DQ, Part II. Prologue to the Reader. Characters and Action. Narrative authority, cont. Comedy and Cruelty. Laughter at and Laughter with. Readings and inventions of Don Quixote: the 18th Century, Romanticism and beyond.


1/ Title Pages and Prefaces to Robinson Crusoe, Moll Flanders, and Pamela (hard copy or Canvas, Files).

2/ Read selections from The Pilgrim’s Progress (Canvas, Files) and Robinson Crusoe** (hard copy or Canvas, Files).


The Pilgrim’s Progress (excerpts) and Robinson Crusoe


DQ and the English novel: novel and allegory; realist facticity and puritan allegory. Adventure novel and spiritual autobiography. Narrative form and language in Defoe.


1/ Watt’s  “Robinson Crusoe, Individualism, and the Novel” (Canvas, Files).

2/ excerpts from Pamela*** (hard copy or online).


Excerpts from Defoe and Richardson

DQ and the English novel: novel and allegory; realist facticity and puritan allegory. Adventure novel and spiritual autobiography. Narrative form and language in Defoe.

1/ Read Fielding’s Shamela.



Excerpts from Pamela; Fielding’s Shamela

The epistolary form and the  18thth-Century reading public. Authenticity, cont.

Start reading Joseph Andrews.


Fielding, Joseph Andrews.

Fielding as parodist. “Comic Epic Poem in Prose”: the aesthetics of Fielding. Persona and Performance of Fielding’s Narrator.



Joseph Andrews, cont.

JA: Plot and Character

Finish reading JA.


Joseph Andrews, cont.

JA: Plot and Character


Watch excerpts from Tom Jones and Joseph Andrews

Start reading (or re-reading) Tristram Shandy. By 5/18 you should have read volumes I, II and III, and will be quizzed.


Sterne, Tristram Shandy.

Sterne’s method: TS and the printed page.



 Tristram Shandy, cont.

Sterne’s method, cont. Time and the association of ideas. Narrative progress and digression.

Read the excerpts from Gargantua and Pantagruel (Canvas, Files). Keep (re)reading Tristram Shandy. By 5/27 you should have read volumes IV, V, and VI, and will be quizzed.


Excerpts from Rabelais.

Rabelaisian Digression: the Erudite tradition. Satire and Philosophical fiction.

Keep (re)reading Tristram Shandy.


Tristram Shandy, cont.

Sterne’s method, cont. The erudite tradition, cont. Erasmus, Montaigne, Swift. System-building.

Keep (re)reading Tristram Shandy. By 6/2 you should have read volumes VII, VIII and IX, and will be quizzed.


Holiday Treat: Winterbottom’s Tristram Shandy



Sterne’s Method, cont. What Is Shandyism? Erudition and sentiment. Hobbyhorses. Uncle Toby.


Tristram Shandy, cont.

Sterne’s Method, cont. What Is Shandyism? Erudition and sentiment. Hobbyhorses. Uncle Toby.


Grand Finale

In-class exam

*Tasks = reading you have to do to prepare for the next meeting or meetings.

**Defoe, Robinson Crusoe:

                Read through Robinson’s statement “I now come to a new Scene of my Life” (namely, his surprise at finding “the print of a Man’s naked Foot on the Shore”) which is about halfway through); then read the closing 3-4 pages. The rest is optional.

***Richardson, Pamela:


                Read I-XV (the first 20 pages or so), to get the flavor of the book. Then read Letter XXV and the first few journal entries (they start after Letter XXXII).

Canvas Files:

Ian Watt, Rise of the Novel, Chapter 1.

Robert Alter, Partial Magic, Chapter 1 (and an excerpt from the Preface).

Kundera, “The Invention of Humor.”

Lazarillo de Tormes excerpt: end of chapter 1.

Defoe: title pages + Prefaces to Robinson Crusoe and Moll Flanders.

Richardson: title page and Preface to Pamela.

Rabelais excerpts: a few chapters/excerpts from each of the first three books of Gargantua and Pantagruel.

Catalog Description: 
Traces the development of a major and popular modern literary genre - the novel. Readings survey forms of fiction including the picaresque, the gothic, the epistolary novel, and the romance. Authors range from Daniel Defoe to Jane Austen and beyond.
GE Requirements: 
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Last updated: 
February 2, 2020 - 10:20pm