“The sole raison d’etre of a novel is to discover what only the novel can discover. A novel that does not discover a hitherto unknown segment of existence is immoral.”

–Milan Kundera, The Art of the Novel

This course will introduce you to some of the most important English novelists of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The novel is the most protean of all genres, and we will watch how it transforms from its early roots in Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko to its heyday in the middle of the Victorian period.  Novels begin with pleasure: their original readers read them because they enjoyed them. But when we think about why readers keep rereading works like Tom Jones, Great Expectations, Pride and Prejudice, or Wuthering Heights, we will soon land in a realm of questions: about the relation of the novel to the politics and culture around it, about the novel’s ability to shape the society that it represents, about changes in the novel’s form, about the novel’s periodic claim to represent reality. We will develop a critical vocabulary to discuss these works, while never losing sight of the pleasures that the early English novel offers.