NINETEENTH-CENTURY ENGLISH NOVEL: ESSAY TITLES -- An essay of 5,000 words to be handed into the English Office by
3.00 pm on
1. If ‘all of Jane Austen’s novels are about education’ (D. D. Devlin), how far is that education concerned with language and the ways that it is used and misused?
2. ‘If in some ways Jane Austen’s vision is complicit with the dominant ideology of her class, in other ways it very clearly transcends it’ (Tanner). Discuss.
4. ‘The acutest men are often under an illusion about women . . . their good woman is a queer thing, half doll, half angel; their bad woman almost always a fiend’. (Shirley). Examine the ways in which any two novels endorse, adapt, or challenge these stereotypes
5. ‘If you think, from this prelude, that anything like a romance is preparing for you, reader, you never were more mistaken. [. . .] Something real, cool, and solid lies before you; something unromantic as Monday morning’ (Charlotte Brontë, Shirley). Examine the ways in which, and the extent to which, any two novels appear to be reacting against romantic and sentimental literature.
6. Consider ‘whether Gothic, for all its extravagances, might not be in some sense a more faithful portrait of a society in crisis and turmoil than, say, Pride and Prejudice’ (Terry Eagleton).
7. Grotesque art has been described as ‘a mixed hybrid form, in which heterogeneous elements (human and animal forms, the natural and the supernatural, comedy and tragedy, the sublime and the monstrous) are held together in an unstable, conflicting and paradoxical relationship’ (Michael Hollington). Examine the role of the grotesque in any two novels.
8. Examine the role of one of the following in any two novels: bankruptcy; letters; travel; illness; irony; the Doppelgänger (or double); the working class; domesticity. Alternatively, trace the function of a single image or motif through a particular text and show how it contributes to the overall meaning.
9. ‘The figure of the orphan is so central in the nineteenth-century novel because it embodies both the fears and the freedoms of a society based on individualism.’ Discuss with reference to two novels.
10. ‘The phrase “getting on” became established usage in the 1840s. It meant making a success of one’s life, building a career, finding a place in the mainstream of society, often from beginnings that were disadvantaged or isolated’ (Rick Rylance). Analyse the ways in which any two novels explore the idea of ‘getting on’ and its implications.
11. ‘My little body will soon fall into the background now’ (Esther Summerson in Bleak House). Consider the extent to which the body is in fact a foreground presence in Bleak House and/or other novels.
12. Examine first-person narration in any two novels and consider the questions and problems that it raises.
13. Foreigners and/or foreign places are often present on the margins of the nineteenth-century novel. Examine their function in any two novels and consider how they may serve to illuminate the narratives’ central characters and central events.
14. ‘The characteristic ending of the Victorian social novel involves a damaging retreat from the public sphere into the private’. Discuss.
15. ‘I desire the company of a man who could sympathise with me: whose eyes would reply to mine’ (Walton in Frankenstein). Walton’s experience is not unique. Examine the role of isolation and the need for sympathy in any two novels.
16. ‘Thackeray’s irony, unlike Jane Austen’s, seems to leave no positive values intact’. Discuss.
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