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Flashcards in The Novel Deck (38)
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English novel time period

  1. begins with the publication of Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe in 1719
  2. a form of literature that looks at the tensions between individuals (often young people) and the society they live in
    • shift from religious view of life towards interest in everyday life experiences (ordinary people and their problems in society)
  3. novels tell a story (and are thus NOT a documentary of life)
  4. writer either suggests individuals should conform to society's standards OR suggests that society is too far gone and individuals are bound to feel alienated



difference between discourse and story

discourse: the language and the texture of the writing in a novel

story: a parable, a tale that makes a point, but in a novel the writer complicates the basic story by adding detail (the discourse), which creates the impression of how complicated people and problems are


realistic novels

  1. create an accurate impression of ordinary life (but most novels are not-realistic) and its dilemmas (e.g. marriage in Pride and Prejudice)
  2. only becomes dominant in the 19th C
  3. realistic novelists are often moralists trying to show how a balanced response to life or correct conduct can be achieved in complex reality
  4. realistic novel is NOT real life, details of landscapes, dialogues, weather, buildings are all used to illuminate the characters and themes. All novels are realistic to the degree that they present convincing characters and environment
  5. ending often not convincing (e.g. endless problems, but suddenly a happy marriage = points towards the novel's 'realism' being a fictional construct itself in a way)

examples: Jane Austen, George Eliot 


character in standard novel

  1. people in a novel are referred to as characters
  2. we asses them on the basis of what the author tells us about them and on the basis of what they do and say --> important because we cannot assume everything, we need to establish everything from the evidence of the text 
  3. details of the character create an impression of his/her personality, whilst raising the broader themes of the novel (character in conflict with society who will either conform or fail at the end)



comic novels

  1. novels in which characters are laughed at whilst presented in difficult situations   
  2. emphasis on outward appearance of characters (clothes, bodily peculiarities and speech mannerisms), people are types
  3. comic novelist writes from a detached position (realistic novelist is sympathetically involved), in which he/she surveys everything in an amused way)
  4. action not real, but exaggeration and illustration of human traits and weaknesses
  5. nevertheless comic novels can be very serious novels as they show a disturbing, satiric view of how society conducts itself


18th C novels

  1. person coming to terms and observing the world in which he/she lives
  2. manner is realistic with a detailed account of the character's feelings and how life unfolds
  3. use of archetypal stories that predate the novel as they hint at something bigger than the novel's interest in everyday life (ideal/reality gap):
    • person on a quest (makes us consider our own journey through life)
  4. scepticism on the new genre itself, because if humans are irrational, who is the novelist to presume order and explain life in something contrived as a story 

examples: Defoe - Robinson Crusoe, Richardson - Pamela/Clarissa, 



  1. a type of novel, written in letters by the main characters
  2. offers a very direct insight into the character's minds (hints at a psychological novel)


example: Richardson whose often seen as the first psychological novelist (Henry Fielding mocked his work and was the first comic novelist in England)


picaresque novel

  1. type of novel that takes the quest story from romance in which somebody is in search of an ideal and deflates it emphasising that there is no goal to be reached and that one is simply stuck in the complications of life


narrative structure

  1. narrative is the organisation of a series of events into the form of a story


narrative structure in novels

  1. a novel begins with a description of a place or a character
    • the setting is either attractive where the characters feel comfortable or unattractive where the characters are bound to feel unhappy and alienated
  2. a character introduced at the beginning of the novel will usually collide with society 
  3. opening chapters expand the picture of the characters and the society they live in
  4. next, the characters are put through a sequence of events extending over a certain time span
  5. characters will be confronted and put into problematic situations


story vs. plot

story: the simple sequence of event in a novel

plot: a fuller description of the novel taking into account the nature of the characters and the significance of the events


e.g. story: the king died and the queen died

e.g. plot: the king died and then the queen died of grief

(time sequence is preserved, but the sense of causility overshadows it)


education novel

  1. a rebellious character undergoes a sequence of testing situations 
  2. by the end of the novel, the character has either matured or at least discovered something about him/herself 

Most novels employ this format for their story but each novel develops this story in a new way




Type of education novel, which start with the main character as a child and then present the child's growth and development towards adulthood




  1. the narrator tells the story in a novel
    1. however every narrator can see things from a different point-of-view
  2. at the end of the 19th C experimentation with narration starts which is still the case in late 20th C novels. Most of the time the narrative point of view is unstable which points towards the gap between reality and interpretations of reality


two ways in which the novelist can complicate their stories

  1. introducing complications in the content: 
    1. including a mass of details about people, places and events which makes the story seem real and substantial
  2. through the way in which he/she chooses to narrate the story as each story can be told in various ways since every narrator has a different point of view


First-person narrative (3)

  1. the central character relates the events he/she experienced (in all other narrative methods, the narrator(s) are observers of the events
  2. allows us a direct insight into the character's mind 
  3. often his/her experiences are viewed retrospectively so that the reader becomes aware of the gap between the immature and mature personality of the character



omniscient narration

  1. a narrator who can see everything is relating the story 
  2. he can be either
    • unintrusive: we are not really aware of a persona telling the story because the action is presented without many explicit comments or judgements (common in modern realistic novels e.g E.M. Forster)
    • intrusive: narrator comments on the events and characters and frequently point to the significance of what is presented in the novel providing a moral interpretation of events/characters (common in earlier realistic novels e.g. Austen)



unintrusive omniscient narrator

we are not really aware of a persona telling the story because the action is presented without many explicit comments or judgements

(common in modern realistic novels e.g E.M. Forster)



intrusive omniscient narrator

narrator comments on the events and characters and frequently point to the significance of what is presented in the novel providing a moral interpretation of events/characters

(common in earlier realistic novels e.g. Austen)


reliable/unreliable narrator

  1. only in realistic novels are narrators reliable as they provide a true picture and often true interpretation of the events
  2. in non-realistic novels the narrator is usually dramatised or self-conscious, giving an interpretation of the events according to his own beliefs and values


19th C novels

  1. the great age of the novel
    1. (for info on specific writers see p125-126)

examples: Austen, Dickens, George Eliot, Hardy



  1. documentary-like approach
  2. stress on how environment and heredity shape people
  3. influenced by Darwin's biological theories of evolution
  4. less subtle than a realistic novel as it is very deterministic instead of attemting to understand life's complexities
  5. associated with Emile Zola, but also American writers Dreiser and Crane


reflexive novels 

  1. when a novel is reflexive, self-referential or self-conscious, the writer draws attention to the fact that he/she is writing a novel
  2. the reflexive novelist makes us feel that life is complex so much so that it can't be processed in a novel
  3. but the novelist still wants to confront and try to understand that experience
  4. often an intrusive narrator (comments on events/characters)


Romance novel

  1. term used for novels where the story is more adventurous or more imaginative than in realistic novels
  2. characters and events are removed  from the everyday (hints at the extraordinary) either on a serious quest for the truth or on improbable adventures and love
  3. American novel has always been more romantic than realistic, often including characters setting out on a journey of discovery (// America itself being the New World) similar to a traditional romance story of a knight on a quest 
  4. European novelists tend to undercut and be sceptic of the romantic ideal >< American writers
  5. moving away from the mundane always leads to travelling to more dangerous, dark places incl the mind


Utopian novel

  1. present a perfectly ordered society where all the problems of reality are gone
  2. often used to reflect back on the imperfections of the existing world



Different modes that present a desire for an ideal world

  1. utopian novel
  2. fantasy literature
  3. science fiction
  4. Gothic novel


Fantasy literature and science fiction

  1. create make-believe worlds
  2. in which problems of ordinary life are transcended and characters live more heroi and ordered lives


psychological novelists

  1. can write with a stream of consciousness technique
  2. offer a very full impression of the mental life of their characters through:
    • first-person narration
    • or a third-person analysis of a character's thoughts
    • intrusive omniscient narrator, esp at the end of the 19th
      •  throug the increasing awareness of the complexity of human mind (Freud), one person narrating an experience is not possibly authorative --> intrusive narrator who comments on his/her experience 


Gothic Novel

  1. type of fantasy novel, esp of supernatural
  2. flourished in the 18th C 
  3. focus on sensational aspect of romance in which not an ideal is searched for but irrational passions of the mind are explored 


Stream of consciousness

  1. a technique which attempts to present  the random flow of impressions through a character's mind
  2. behind the random impressions, there often is an ideal of order (structured elements) and a significant story in the background