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Dr. Laura L. Runge
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ENL 4122
English Novel

Spring 2006
Time: Monday and Wednesday

Class 16

Reading Assignment:

Mar. 6 Supplemental readings Evelina
    Reviews, pp. 358-361.
    Kristina Straub: "Marriage as the Dangerous Die" pp. 411-430
    Post #8 (Group A)
    Historical Annotation: Autumn Exum and Samuel Schumaker's presentation


Class Objectives:

  • To discuss novel's contemporary reception
  • To analyze Straub's argument on marriage in Evelina


Letter to the Professor

At this mid-point in the semester, I invite you to write me a letter ( in lieu of your weekly post. Although it may seem late to be doing this, I would like to hear a little bit about your background in English, your major, your other intellectual interests. What other courses are you taking this semester? Are you under a particularly heavy work load this semester? Do you plan to go on to graduate studies in English or another field? Are you preparing to be a teacher? Anything that might help me help you get the most out of this novel class.

In your letter I'd like to hear your impressions about how the class is going, what personal objectives you have for taking the class, and how well you are meeting them. In particular, I would like to know if there is anything that can be improved to make your learning experience better.

I'd also like for you to begin to think about what you would like to write for your paper in this class. You might evaluate your own writing in the weekly posts and pick out one or two particularly interesting posts that might serve as a seed paper for the longer analysis.

This is also an opportunity to ask me any questions that you have. Are there any points in the discussion or material that you would like clarification on? Do you have any ideas that you would like to cover in class?

Please send me this letter directly to my email address rather than to the discussion board. I will count your letter as a post when I receive it. Thanks for taking the time to do this. I believe it will enhance your learning in the class, and it will allow me to be more effective in teaching.


Notes and Discussion Questions:

1. Novel's Contemporary Reception

Based on the brief reviews, what do you think 18th-century readers looked for in novels? What role do gender expectations play in these reviews?

Examine the critical and thematic treatment in the Critical review. How does this differ from the other reviews? What are the major concerns in this review? How is this like (or not like) our reception today?

Compare these reviews with Johnson's comments on Tom Jones. Are there similar assumptions? How do they differ?


2. Staub's analysis of marriage in Evelina.

Throughout this excerpt from her book, Divided Fictions (UP Kentucky, 1987), Straub refers to a female's growth to maturity as inevitably a narrative of loss. What does she mean by this? In what sense does a girl lose when she becomes an adult? what does she lose?

How does the happy ending of Evelina constitute a fairy tale meant to provide an escape from the grim realities a woman faces upon marriage?

Evaluate the "message" given by the representation of the Mirvan women: "as both models of conventional correctness ... and as walking wounded, illustrations of the personal cost of being such models" (415). What do the characters mean to you?

Evaluate Straub's thesis: that the negative representation of women's role in marriage sits uneasily next to the sentimental ideology "of women's deserved happiness lying in married love" (416). How does the negative view of women in marriage undermine (or complement?) the happy ending?

Straub develops the argument that narrative representations of marriage, like those in conduct books, etc, see marriage as institutionalizing the sense of loss accompanying female maturity.
"Even when love is admitted into the picture of marriage, the literature often sees it as a significant help to getting through a socially necessary but personally bad business, not a prize that women can work for" (419-20).

However, one cannot secure happiness by avoiding marriage either: "As depressingly as marriage is often depicted, it is the organizing principle, the raison d'etre of female life" (420).

How are these views represented in Evelina? Where does the emphasis lie in this novel?

Straub ultimately suggests that the unlikeliness of Evelina's marriage to the lord indicates the hazardous chance women run in the marriage market. How convincing is this argument? What does the marriage between Evelina and Orville say about the chances for happiness in marriage?


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