"Romance and Reality: The Making of the English Novel 1800-1850" with Prof. Dr. Simon Edwards
While the novels of both Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters have acquired cult status in our own times, not least thanks to immensely popular TV and film adaptations, in their own time it was the historical fiction of Walter Scott, ‘The Wizard of the North’, that enjoyed an even greater standing.
As with Austen and the Brontes this was in part through adaptation for stage drama and opera. All of his novels were thus transformed, not merely in Britain but throughout Europe and America. While Scott is no longer widely read this course aims to examine one of his historical novels alongside those of Austen and Bronte. Austen and Scott expressed a mutual regard for each other’s work, though widely different in scope and emphasis. Yet they also share the qualities that are foundational for the work of their great successors in the 19c novel. They combine stories of passionate and frustrated love with closely observed and realised social settings, whereby romance is always held in check by reality. Our perception of what constitutes ‘character’ in the novel is radically shaped by these novelists. Likewise the novel’s attentiveness to matters of social class. Bronte’s Wuthering Heights is inconceivable without the example of both Scott and Austen. But we might also argue that without Scott there would be no Dickens, Thackeray, George Eliot, Hardy, Henry James. Equally no Balzac, Fenimore Cooper, Flaubert, Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy.
The novels to be read and studied are:
Jane Austen. Pride and Prejudice (1813)
Walter Scott. The Bride of Lammermoor (1819)
Emily Bronte. Wuthering Heights (1847)