Course description

Literary narrative goes back to ancient times, but the novel, as the term is used today, did not appear until the seventeenth century, and only in the eighteenth century did it establish itself as the dominant literary form of our culture. This course explores the eighteenth-century novels long considered the best and most important, both for their achievement in developing the possibilities of narrative, and for their ability to give pleasure to readers. To bring out the particular qualities of each work, scenes from modern film adaptations are shown whenever available. Issues to be considered include genre (What was new about novels? Is the novel a genre?); features of omniscient, first-person, and epistolary narration; representation of character and subjective experience; the social function of fiction; the attractions of plot; the paradoxes of realism; moral didacticism and its subversion; and differences between British and French fiction. Novels include The Princesse de Clèves, Robinson Crusoe, Clarissa, Tom Jones, Les Liaisons Dangereuses, and Pride and Prejudice. Due to the condensed summer schedule, the longer works are read in abridged form.

Instructor

  • Ernest Bernbaum Professor of Literature, Emeritus, Harvard University.
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