NINETEENTH-CENTURY ENGLISH NOVEL: ESSAY TITLES – An essay of 5,000 words to be handed into the English Office by 3pm on Tuesday 6 May 2008.
New Grub Street and The Picture of Dorian Gray as ‘portraits of the artist’.
1. In her essay ‘The Antigone and its Moral’ George Eliot argues that ‘the antagonism between valid claims’ lies at the heart of Sophocles’ tragedy and remains a perennial issue. How far does she create her own version of this kind of tragedy in The Mill on the Floss?
2. ‘The act of detection reveals more about the detective than about the mystery or crime that is under investigation’ Consider this view with reference to one or more novels.
3. ‘The ideal of the gentleman presupposes the subordination of woman.’ Discuss any two novels in the light of this contention.
4. Discuss the view that North and South is a work of compromise and accommodation which raises large social issues only to diminish them in merely personal solutions.
5. Drawing comparisons with one or more other novels where appropriate, consider how far the ending of The Mill on the Floss represents a retreat into fantasy, a fantasy of reconciliation and vindication?
6. Examine the role of the first-person narrator and/or the role of memory in one or more novels.
7. Examine the relationship between man and nature in Tess of the D’Urbervilles and The Mill on the Floss or another appropriate novel.
8. Nancy Armstrong in Desire and Domestic Fiction (1987) argues that English domestic fiction in the nineteenth century neutralizes class struggle by replacing that struggle with gender conflict. Examine North and South and/or Lady Audley’s Secret and/or another appropriate novel in the light of this argument.
9. ‘We have become so accustomed to thinking of the novel’s plot and structure as constituted mainly by temporality that we have overlooked the function of space, geography or location’ (Edward Said). Consider the function of space (or geography, or location) in any two novels in the light of this observation.
10. Tess, we are told, ‘was not an existence, an experience, a passion, a structure of sensations, to anybody but herself’. Is it her tragic dilemma that she can never escape the objectifying gaze of others?
11. ‘Tess of the D’Urbervilles is a work riven by contradictions and discontinuities but that is the source of its power as a novel’. Discuss.
12. In Lady Audley’s Secret the male conspiracy to silence the female even appears to involve the narrator, but can the woman's case still be discerned as a subtext in the novel?
13. ‘This is the true nature of home - it is the place of Peace; the shelter, not only from all injury, but from all terror, doubt, and division’ (Ruskin). Examine the ways in which home is represented in the novel.
14. Does the representation of the working class in the Victorian novel ever escape a patronizing middle-class perspective? Discuss in relation to two or three texts.
15. Gissing admired Dickens and wrote a critical study of his work: how do his own vision and practice as a novelist differ from those of his predecessor?
16. ‘Although the words and behaviour of Wilde’s characters may be iconoclastic, The Picture of Dorian Gray ends up by passing a rather conventional moral judgement on its central figure.’ Discuss the extent to which Wilde’s novel represents a radical new departure in nineteenth-century fiction.
17. Discuss and compare