Skip to main content

Essay Questions 2011/12

Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies

EN 201 The European Novel Assessed Essay 2011-12 (Word Document)

The essay counts for 50% of the final mark. One copy of the essay should be submitted electronically and one hard copy handed in to the English Department office.

The following topics are suggestions. You may modify them, or devise one of your own, but should do so only in consultation with your seminar tutor.

While you may range as widely as you like in European prose fiction, not necessarily confining yourself to books studied on the module, you should make detailed reference to AT LEAST TWO of the set texts unless the question states otherwise. Material used in the essay must not be substantially repeated in the examination.

Max Word Length: 5000.

1. Most modern novels are imaginative expressions of the conflict between tradition and modernity. Qualify this statement with reference to at least two novels you have studied on the module.

2. ‘The truest realism is one that truthfully confronts it’s own limitations.’ (George Levine). Consider how far any two novels are truly realistic in this sense.

3. Write an essay explaining why class is a constitutive feature in – or even of – the European novel.

4. ‘I was left alone in this new world in which a single day had made my previous life a dim memory’. (The Atom Station, Ch2) Write an essay on the significance of transition and transformation in European novels.

5. The module has covered fiction spanning three centuries and ten countries.


Critically compare a European novel published prior to 1900 with one published after that date, commenting on their similarities as well as their differences.


b) Write a comparative analysis of at least two novels from different countries, commenting on their similarities as well as their differences.


c) Make a case for the inclusion of a novel not on the syllabus. Your novel must be “European” and from the period 1650-1960. You must critically compare it with at least one text we have studied on the course.

6. Discuss the significance of either the beginnings or the endings of at least two novels on the course.

7. Discuss the role of either suicide or adultery in two European novels.

8. Is the city a wholly problematic space in European novels? (You can, if you wish, replace city with ‘country’ here).

9. Write an essay on the treatment of work and/or labour in two European novels.

10. Even in their rejection of it, realist novels need romanticism. Discuss the merits of this statement with reference to at least two European novels.

11. Why is discerning narrative technique (such as perspective, focalisation, plotting, etc.) crucial to both the understanding and expression of character and/or events in the novels you have read?

12. All novels are self-conscious, aren’t they? Discuss, with reference to at least two European novels.

13. Make a case for the primacy of the ‘global’ as the primary lens through which to read at least two European novels from the course. (You may, if you wish, replace ‘global’ with either ‘local’ or ‘national’ in this statement).

14. In what ways can the novels we have covered be seen as testing laboratories for either gender politics or women’s rights?

15. Write about the significance of any one of the following in the novels we have covered:

Science; Revolution; time; observation; letters; documentary; individuals and/or crowds; fashion; nature; readers; the fantastic; sexuality.