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Assessed Essay 2009/10

Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies

EN201 The European NovelAssessed Essay 2010-11

The essay counts for 50% of the final mark. Two copies of the essay should be handed in to the English Department office not later than 3 pm on Monday 3 May 2010.

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. ‘The control of the imagination is umbilically linked to the history of the novel.’ (Costa Lima, ‘The Control of the Imagination and the Novel’) Present a case for the validity of this assertion, with reference to at least two novels we have read on the module.

2. ‘The Experimental Novel is our goal’ (Zola) In what way can the literature we have covered be described as either innovative or ‘ experimental’?

3. ‘ Which of the three clocks was correct? Which of those three devices for the mensuration of time was the most exact in its indications?’< /font>(The Quest)

‘…the sauntering brass hands of a grandfather clock, which sliced the seemingly endless day into tiny pieces…’ (Skylark)

Analyze the formal importance and/or representation of time in any two novels of your choice.

4. ‘Romantic enthusiasm develops a consciousness of its own futility and succumbs to the realities of a sordid world.’(Philip Gaskell, Landmarks in the European Novel)Is this an accurate description of some of the moduletexts?

5. ‘….that strange city which no one leaves before it has set its mark upon him…’ (Hunger). Discuss how city-spaces shape the consciousness of the characters in at least two of the novels you have read this term. (You may instead discuss rural-spaces – or the relation between the two).

6. Discuss the role of the unreliable narrator in any two novels.

7. The Novel has often been lauded as an appropriate and effective genre for the depiction of a world in transition. Demonstrate the efficacy of this statement with detailed reference to two novels from the module.

8. The module has covered fiction spanning three centuries and nine countries.

Either:

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

Or:

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

Or:

c) Make a case for the inclusion of a novel noton 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 module.

9. The Novel has often been lauded as an appropriate and effective genre for the depiction of a world in transition. Demonstrate the efficacy of this statement with detailed reference to two novels from the module.

10. Comparethe ways in which two or three novels reveal, either explicitly or obliquely, an awareness of their fictional nature, and consider how this influences their interpretation.

11. ‘The more the opinions of the author remain hidden, the better for the work of art.’ (Friedrich Engels, letter to Margaret Harkness, April 1888.) Examine this view in relation to the handling of socio-political subjects in one or more of the novels studied in this module.

12. Write an essay detailing what you consider to be the significance – or indeed the insignificance - of ‘European’ in ‘The European Novel’.

13. It has been said that in order to understand the dynamics of the realist novel it is necessary to ‘follow the money’. In what ways and to what extent do you find this a useful notion? (You need not confine yourself to discussing ‘realist’ fiction).

14. Demonstrate how at least two European novels formally register the experience of subjectivity.

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

16. Write about the significance of any one of the following in the novels we have covered: adultery; status; fashion; science; secrets and revelations; globalisation; capitalism; birthright and/or inheritance; love; marriage; suicide; the unconscious; letters; the body; epigraphs and/or epilogues; nature.

17. Realism can never simply be codeless in its claimed replication of reality. It is always presenting a particular theory of what will count as a picture of reality, and it is always attached, if only by counter-positioning, to rival forms of artistic representation that it is out to replace.’ (Rachel Bowlby, ‘Foreword’ to Matthew Beaumont (ed), Adventures in Realism, 2007)

Elaborate on this statement and incorporate at least two novels into your discussion.