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February 13, 2006

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Dr. Laura L. Runge
Office: CPR 301J
Phone: 813-974-9496

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ENL 4122
English Novel

Spring 2006
Time: Monday and Wednesday

Class 12

Change in plans.
Due to personal obligations, I will not be in class on Feb. 20. Please stay on schedule with your posts, which I will read and count. Also please stay on schedule with your reading. I have slightly adjusted the reading assignment for the 20th, and I will try to arrange for someone to show the DVD during class time on the 20th. If you have any questions about assignments and due dates, please email me. I will be out of the office from Thursday Feb. 16 through Tuesday Feb. 21.

Reading Assignment:

Feb. 20 -- Floating reading assignment. You will need to read the essay by Samuel Johnson at some point during the semester, and those of you who will be posting may want to read it for Monday, Feb. 20.

Supplemental readings on Tom Jones :

    Samuel Johnson, Rambler #4 handout and in text, pp. 664-667;
    The handout contains the full version of Johnson's famous essay, which comments as much on the history of the novel in mid-eighteenth century as on Tom Jones. It is an important document for this class. Also included in the back of the text are smaller excerpts that record Johnson's reactions to Fielding and Tom Jones.

Post #6 (Group A)


Class Objectives: (if we were meeting to discuss...)

  • To discuss Johnson's reaction to Tom Jones
  • To discuss the history of the novel vis a vis Tom Jones
  • To analyze our theme in the novel: for richer or poorer


Notes and Discussion Questions:

1. Samuel Johnson

Johnson is a tremendously important intellectual figure in the late eighteenth century, although he is not a novelist, per se. He was a widely respected literary critic and poet, and he was best known for his English language Dictionary. To learn more about this important figure, see Jack Lynch's Guide to Johnson.

We should pay most of our attention to Johnson's own writing (as opposed to the excerpts from Boswell and More), and so please read carefully the essay Rambler #4.

Johnson's essay is concerned with the effects of a new type of writing, a realistic fiction that engages the reader's heart (and sometimes confuses his or her head).

What is unique about this form of writing? How does it differ from the chivalric or French romances that principally constitute prose fiction beforehand?

How does Johnson's description of the new form of writing characterize Tom Jones?

According to Johnson, who is the audience for this new form of writing? What type of person is susceptible to this fiction?

What are the dangers of this type of writing?

How does Tom Jones embody this danger?

What paragraphs do you think are directly aimed at Fielding and his characters in Tom Jones? Why?

Browse through the other contemporary responses to the novel in the back of the book. What are the chief objections to the book? What are the sources of praise? Why does Boswell feel that Johnson underates Fielding? How is the morality of gender represented in the selections?


2. History of the novel

After finishing Tom Jones, what would you say are its main successes? Failures?

How does this compare as a novel to Roxana? What would you say is different in terms of style? Structure? Character? Plot? Audience? Theme?

Based on the novel alone, what would you consider the major influences on Fielding's writing style?

How do your responses to these questions differ from the contemporary responses above?


3. For Richer or Poorer

In the end, Tom does marry Sophia and the "live happily ever after." Even though he is still base-born at the end of the novel, the discovery of his parentage plays a major role in his fate. What does the revelation of Jones' parents mean for his marriage to Sophia? What does it suggest about Jones' "natural gentility"? What does it mean for his financial fortune?

Given the complex plotting of the narrative (return to the Inn at Upton scene, for example; or, trace the interactions with Lawyer Dowling), and given the instability of the ironic narrative, what does the novel ultimately say about morality and marriage choice and the role of money?


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