Gwybodaeth Modiwlau

Module Identifier
Module Title
A Virtuous Vice? or: the true HISTORY of the English NOVEL
Academic Year
Semester 2
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Seminar 10 x 2 Hour Seminars


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment First Essay Assignment  1 x 1500 word essay  25%
Semester Assessment Second Essay Assignment  1 x 3000 word essay  75%
Supplementary Assessment Resubmit failed or missing essay  Resubmit 1 x 1500 word essay  25%
Supplementary Assessment Resubmit failed or missing essay  Resubmit 1 x 3000 word essay  75%

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;

Articulate this knowledge in the form of reasoned critical analysis of particular literary texts;

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.


This module is one of a suite of modules that engage with literature from the pre-modern period. It will allow the student to acquire knowledge of writing from periods before 1800 and to show an informed awareness of historical and cultural differences.

Brief description

This module examines four novels from the period 1722-1760. 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.

Estimated Student Workload
Contact time 20.5 hours
Reading and preparation 100 hours
Independent study preparing assignments 79.5 hours


Students will be required to attend 1x 2hour seminar per week. Seminars will be structured in the traditional fashion with preparatory reading set each week and opportunities for whole group / small group / paired discussion. 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.

Week 1: Introduction – The English novel and its lengthy gestation
During the first teaching session 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:

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:

Seminar 2: Daniel Defoe, Journal of the Plague Year (1722) – the novel as autobiography

Seminar 3: Daniel Defoe, Journal of the Plague Year (1722) – truth vs. fiction and the politics of fictional veracity

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:

Seminar 5: Samuel Richardson, Pamela (1740) – scandal and the “Pamela Phenomenon”

Seminar 6: Tobias Smollett, The Expedition of Humphrey Clinker (1771) – decoding the epistolary form

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:

Seminar 8: Laurence Sterne, Tristram Shandy (c.1759-1767) – digression and deviation; rendering the hyper-real

Seminar 9: Laurence Sterne, Tristram Shandy (c.1759-1767) – the art of learned wit

Supplementary Film Viewing, Michael Winterbottom (dir.) A Cock and Bull Story (2005)

Seminar 10: Laurence Sterne, Tristram Shandy (c.1759-1767) – “Nothing odd will do long. Tristram Shandy did not last” (Samuel Johnson

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 Group work in seminars. Preparing and presenting group presentations
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
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


This module is at CQFW Level 6