(Offered as EUST 36, ENGL 48, and FREN 62.) Why was reading novels considered dangerous in the eighteenth century, especially for young girls?
This course will examine the development, during this period, of the genre of the novel in England and France, in relation to the social and moral dangers it posed and portrayed. Along with the troublesome question of reading fiction itself, we will explore such issues as social class and bastardy, sexuality and self-awareness, the competing values of genealogy and character, and the important role of women--as novelists, readers, and characters--in negotiating these questions. We will examine why the novel was itself considered a bastard genre, and engage formal questions by studying various kinds of novels: picaresque, epistolary, gothic, as well as the novel of ideas. Our approach will combine close textual analysis with historical readings about these two intertwined, yet rival, cultures, and we will pair novels in order to foreground how these cultures may have taken on similar social or representational problems in different ways. Possible pairings might include Prévost and Defoe, Laclos and Richardson, Voltaire and Fielding, Sade and Jane Austen. French novels will be read in translation. Two class meetings per week.