English 5317A - Studies in the Eighteenth-Century Novel

"Desire and the Origins of the English Novel"

W: 19:30 - 21:30

David McNeil,  
1456 Henry, #127   (902) 494-3508
Office Hours: TBA 

... and not till then, had he ever presumed to kiss her; so sacred and inviolable had that chaste maid preserved herself, amidst the flames of love that had surrounded her from the Count's passion without, and from her own fires within. Delariviere Manley, The Wife's Resentment


One might admire the ingenuity of Crusoe when his desire for bread drives him to construct a primitive oven, but Defoe's hero does not seem so clever when he obsessively works for weeks on a dugout canoe only to realize that it's too heavy to drag to the beach! This half-credit class will focus on the subject of desire in the early English novel. The assigned reading will be approximately one-third theoretical, two-thirds practical. The class assumes no prior knowledge in the area, only a will on the part of the student to learn more about how a consideration of desire in all its forms--curiosity, materialism and sexuality-- elucidates our understanding of eighteenth-century fiction.

Is Emily Montague's wish to look attractive to men--only because she knows that it pleases her dear Ed!--a textbook example of René Girard's mediated desire? Is Nancy Armstrong right about Mr. B__'s sexual excitement at the prospect of reading Pamela's letters? Is there a Lacanian dimension to the narrator's purposes in Oroonoko or Moll's writing about her kleptomaniac behavior? Can Schopenhauer's concept of the Will help explain the clever and not-so-clever Crusoe? These are the kinds of questions we will be asking.

All students will be responsible for reading the "core" texts below and making an oral presentation on one of them. In addition, students will be asked to write brief reports on any two selections from the secondary list and circulate these reports to the other seminar participants. (Students are not expected to read all of the material on the secondary list!) Finally, students may opt to do one term essay dealing with a number of texts or two shorter pieces focusing on more specific texts--what you will.

"Core" Texts: