Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
A Virtuous Vice? the True History of the English Novel ....
Academic Year
Semester 2
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Seminar 11 x 2 Hour Seminars
Workshop 11 x 2 Hour Workshops


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Assignment 1  1 x 2000 word essay addressing the hsitorical, contextual and conceptual elements of the module  40%
Semester Assessment Assignment 2:  1 x 3500 word essay addressing one or more literary texts in relation to themes derived from the module content.  60%
Supplementary Assessment Resubmit failed elements  Resubmissions will be to a new topic. 

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

1. demonstrate a detailed knowledge of the development of the novel during the eighteenth-century

2. articulate this knowledge in the form of reasoned critical analysis of particular literary texts

3. locate the texts studied in appropriate literary, historical, and cultural contexts

4. engage with relevant aspects of recent scholarly and/or critical debates about the texts and contexts studied

5. communicate nuanced ideas effectively through written and verbal modes

Brief description

This module examines four novels from the period 1719-1760. The texts considered are drawn from key 'moments' in the development of prose fiction during the period broadly identified as giving rise to the English novel. Students will be asked to evaluate the traditional narrative of 'the rise of the novel' whilst reading four texts conventionally identified as evidence for this paradigm. As well as considering issues of form such as narration, structure, metafictionality, and language, students will be asked to focus on the theme of 'singularity' as a trope that dominates the representation of character in the early English novel. They will explore the relationship between form and theme, focusing on the ways in which novelists of the period represent singularity of character through the employment of distinct formal devices.


  • To introduce students to the development of the novel form during the eighteenth century;
  • To develop an understanding of the range and variety of narrative forms, modes and devices utilized in the early English novel;
  • To establish a contextual framework for the discussion of the novel during the eighteenth century which takes account of diverse issues such as political, economic, technological and social influences on literary production;
  • To develop the strategies necessary for reading, analyzing and critically reflecting on long literary texts.


Students will be required to attend two weekly sessions, 1x 2hour seminar and 1x 2hour lecture/workshop. Seminars will be structured in the traditional fashion with preparatory reading set each week and opportunities for whole group / small group / paired discussion. Lecture/Workshop sessions will be structured around the traditional lecture format (as a mode of delivering information en-masse) but students will be required to engage in a range of break-out activities designed to deepen their understanding of a given topic. Activities might include; information gathering, textual annotation, writing exercises, close reading, mini presentations. The precise nature of these activities will be determined, in part, by the size of the group(s) involved.

Introduction ? The English novel and its lengthy gestation [week 1]
During the first two teaching sessions students will be introduced to the aims and objectives of the module, and will carry out work that focuses on existing critical debates and historical 'grand narratives'. Students will examine these traditional scholarly narratives in the light of theoretical developments (including gynocritical challenges to the literary canon and the querying of Anglo-centric renderings of literary history) thus, establishing a conceptual framework for future discussions:

Lecture/Workshop 1: Why did the English Novel 'Rise'?

Seminar 1: The Novel before Defoe - selected readings from secondary material

Volume I: Reward for Exemplary Goodness [weeks 2-4]
During weeks 2-4 students will focus on the early English novel and authenticity. They will examine the various techniques employed by novelists to create "authentic" narratives and will consider the representation of character in relation to the notion of Exemplary goodness:

Lecture/Workshop 2: Genre and the Early English Novel
Seminar 2: Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe (1719) - the novel as autobiography

Lecture/Workshop 3: Narrative technique and the Early English Novel
Seminar 3: Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe (1719) - truth vs. fiction and the politics of fictional veracity

Lecture/Workshop 4: Gender and the mid-century novel
Seminar 4: Samuel Richardson, Pamela (1740) - virtuous conduct for the virtuous reader

Volume II: Punishment for Singular Personages [weeks 5-7]
During weeks 5-7 students will consider the role of readers in relation to the reception and interpretation of the early English novel. Using Richardson as a case study they will engage with the concept of interpretative communities and consider such theoretical ideas in relation to the eighteenth-century reader. This discussion will develop with the introduction of Smollett and the idea of reading as a process of decoding meaning.

Lecture/Workshop 5: Readers and the mid-century novel
Seminar 5: Samuel Richardson, Pamela (1740) - scandal and the 'Pamela Phenomenon'

Lecture/Workshop 6: Revisiting old models: Rabelais & Cervantes
Seminar 6: Tobias Smollett, The Expedition of Humphrey Clinker (1771) - decoding the epistolary form

Lecture/Workshop 7: Narrating identities: nationalism and patriotism in a not-English novel
Seminar 7: Tobias Smollett, The Expedition of Humphrey Clinker (1771) -misanthropy, illegitimacy and hypochondria

Volume III: In which the novel succumbs to an excess of Singularity [weeks 8-10]
During weeks 8-10 students will discuss the notion of narrative experimentation, with specific reference to Sterne but also in relation to the early English novel more broadly. They will consider the ways in which novel writing during this period can be conceptualized in relation to postmodern theory and articulations of metafictionality. They will discuss the problems of labelling texts in this manner and ways of negotiating and defining 'new' narrative forms. They will examine the 'singularity' of the novel during this period in terms of the future trajectory of the novel - histories that, in the eighteenth century, had yet to be written:


Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number N/A
Communication Written communication in essays. Spoken communication in seminar participation. (not assessed) Group discussion and presentation. (not assessed)
Improving own Learning and Performance Developing time-management skills. Independent reading and research.
Information Technology By using word processing packages and making use of Blackboard and other e-resources to research and access course documents and other materials
Personal Development and Career planning Critical self-reflection and development of transferable communication and research skills.
Problem solving Developing evaluative analysis and critical skills in a controlled argument.
Research skills Developing independent study. Relating literary texts to historical and interpretative contexts.
Subject Specific Skills Detailed critical/ theoretical analysis of literary texts and evaluation of broad theoretical concepts.
Team work Group work in seminars. Preparing and presenting group presentations.


This module is at CQFW Level 6