Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College


English 325. The Eighteenth-Century Novel

Before the 18th century, novels in English did not exist. By the end of the 18th century, however, many cultural figures worried about the seemingly obsessive novel reading that was going on among young (particularly female) readers. This course will examine what changed between 1700 and 1800 to make the novel the most important genre of English literature. We will explore the novel as a historical and literary phenomenon. We will see the many ways that the novel answered the grand social and cultural questions which dominated the 18th century. What is the difference between men and women? What makes a human life worthwhile? How should I relate to my family and loved ones? What makes a story seem truthful or false? By reading the prose of Defoe, Haywood, Richardson, Fielding, Sterne, Burney and Austen, we shall find out.