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February 13, 2006


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ENL 4122
English Novel


Spring 2006
Time: Monday and Wednesday
11:00-12:15 pm


Class 13

Reading Assignment:

Feb. 22 Evelina VoL. I, pp. 1-111
    Post #6 (Group B)
    Historical Annotation: Nicole Mc Cracken's presentation

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Class Objectives:

  • To discuss the heroine's birth, status and expectations for marriage
  • To discuss Evelina and her "Entrance into the World"
  • To discuss the epistolary style and Burney's literary inheritance

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Notes and Discussion Questions:

1. Heroine's birth, status and marriage

Even if our course theme did not demand it, the novel makes the heroine's marriagability a central focus. Why is this so?

How would you describe Evelina's birth? Her status? In what ways is she similar to Tom Jones? In what ways does her gender create different expectations and different limitations for this character?

Why does she have such a difficult problem with names? What do her various names suggest?

Given Evelina's precarious status, what marriage partners can we expect for her? Why? How do the characters of the novel respond to this question? Why is there room for debate?

What makes Evelina a desireable marriage partner? How would you describe Willoughby's interest in her?

How would you describe the younger Brangton's interest?

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2. "Entrance into the World"

In what sense is this a story about a girl's "entrance into the world"? What world? What makes this story worthy of a "history"?

As she leaves her home in Berry Hill, with her "more than father," how does she develop as a character? What evidence does the narrative provide for her development?

How is London represented through our heroine's eyes? What are the delights and dangers she encounters? Why does Mr. Villars want her to return to him as the same girl? What are the implications?

Compare the various father figures in the novel. What role do they play in a young lady's entrance?

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3. Novel Style and inheritance

In the Preface, Burney places the novelist (anonymous) in a “humble” position, but then she claims a lineage with Rousseau, Johnson, Mariveaux, Fielding, Richardson and Smollett. What effect does this introductory gesture have?

What does this preface indicate about the state of the novel as a genre? (Can you sense the influence of Johnson, who was a family friend of the Burney's?) Who is excluded from the list and why? How does this compare with Fielding’s introductions and prefaces?

This is our only novel this semester written in the epistolary style. Note that the novel is told in letters, following a style made unforgettable by Samuel Richardson (Pamela, Clarissa, Sir Charles Grandison).

What the advantages of writing in letters? First-person narration? Subjectivity of the characters? How does this compare with Fielding’s style?

What are some of the disadvantages of writing in letters? Limitations of the point of view? Heroine involved in speaking of herself?

What strategies alleviate the problems that Richardson faced with Pamela (solipsism, hypocrisy, improbability)?

One of the striking features of Burney's writing is the use of humor (decidedly not Richardsonian, and more in line with Fielding). Note for example the heroine's description of London society upon her first arrival. How does Burney’s mode of satire compare with Fielding's? Similarities? Differences?

For how long does this satiric stance of the ingenue last in the novel? What does the change signify about Evelina? What characters carry the force of Burney’s humor thereafter?

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4. Historical annotation

Opera, Ridotto, the Pantheon, Ranelagh, balls, ladies' fashions in late eighteenth century.

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