2020 The Historical Novel: Reconstructing the Past from Waverley to Wolf Hall

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  • Course: 3.02.141
  • Time: Thursday 10-12h
  • Venue: A01 0-010 b / online
  • Course Description: The beginning of this summer term also marks the publication of Hilary Mantel's The Mirror & the Light, the third part in the Wolf Hall trilogy. With these bestselling and critically acclaimed titles, two Booker Prize wins and a world-wide fan base, Mantel has been at the centre of (1) a debate linking current Brexit politics with the English Reformation and (2) a resurgence of the historical novel. In this course, we will trace the beginnings and developments of the genre (from Waverly [1814] to Wolf Hall [2009]), its reconstructions of historical characters and settings (via a constructivist, New Historicist, postmodernist lense), as well as the scholarly contributions making sense of its appeal (from Lukacs to Borgmeier, Hutcheon, de Groot). Students are required to have read the two main novels and expand their experience with and knowledge of the genre by choosing a third novel (selection below) and studying secondary literature.

Please, buy and read the following novels:

  • Scott, Walter. Waverley; or, 'Tis Sixty Years Since. [1814] Ed. Claire Lamont. Oxford: OUP, 1998/2008/2015. (9780198716594)
  • Mantel, Hilary. Wolf Hall. [2009] London: Fourth Estate, 2010. (9780007230204)
  • as well as one of the following: [to be discussed]
  • Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities (1859) - preferably Penguin or Norton
  • Graves, Robert. I, Claudius (1934) - preferably Vintage
  • Fowles, John. The French Lieutenant's Woman (1969) - preferably Vintage
  • Barnes, Julian. Flaubert's Parrot (1984) - preferably Vintage
  • Morrison, Toni. Beloved (1987) - preferably xx
  • Byatt, A.S. Possession (1990) - preferably xx
  • Chevalier, Tracy. Remarkable Creatures (2009) - preferably --

PLEASE NOTE: All primary materials will be made available at the CvO bookshop. Should the semester be postponed due to current circumstances, please use the time to immerse yourself in the reading of the first two novels. Additional materials for preparation, as well as the detailed syllabus, will be made available here and/or on Stud.IP. There will be a Handapparat in our library.

Session 1: 23 April 2020: Introduction to the History of the Historical Novel

  • Welcome: Please read my message under 'Ankündigungen on Stud.IP'; familiarize yourself with the draft syllabus that you find here and note the course requirements for 6 KP:
  • (1) excerpts and textual analysis assignments (upload weekly to Stud.IP)
  • (2) three RPOs (1 per novel, 1 page each; upload to Stud.IP)
  • (3) one seminar paper (12-15 pp), based on the topic of one of your RPOs (upload to Stud.IP and hand in as print version by 15 Sept).
  • Historical fiction in academic discourse:
  • Keen, Suzanne. "The Historical Turn in British Fiction" (2006) - download via stud.ip
  • Historical fiction in public discourse:
  • Task 1 (cf. Stud.IP)

Session 2: 30 April 2020: Formal and Functional Analysis of Wolf Hall

  • We will meet on Stud.IP (go to our course --> 'meetings' --> no camera, mute microphone, we will add these as we proceed)
  • Topic: Textual Analysis (narration, focalization, character constellation, plot & story, themes & motifs)
  • Primary Literature: Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall (2009)
  • Handout Literature & Representation
  • Handout: Narratology
  • Task 2 (cf. Stud.IP)

Session 3: 7 May 2020: Wolf Hall and Historiography

  • Topic: Historiography and Subjectivity
  • Primary Literature: Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall (2009)
  • Secondary Reading: Johnston, Andrew James. "Hilary Mantel: The Thomas Cromwell Trilogy (2009- )." Handbook of the English Novel in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries. Ed.Christoph Reinfandt. Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter, 2017. 536-54.
  • Task 3

Session 4: 14 May 2020: Critical Perspectives on Wolf Hall

  • Topic: Using Contexts for Analysis
  • Primary Literature: Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall (2009)
  • Context: Stephen Greenblatt's NYRB review (2009)
  • Secondary Reading: choose one among the following... Stocker (2012); Szymanski (2014); Murphy (2015); Brosch (2018); O'Connor (2018)
  [Hand in RPO #1 until session 5]

Session 5: 28 May 2020: Theory and Methods I

  • Topic: The Historical Novel as Reconstruction
  • Secondary Reading: de Groot, The Historical Novel (2010); read esp. Ch.2 Origins
  • Task 4 (cf. Stud.IP)

Session 6: 4 June 2020: Formal and Functional Analysis of Waverley

  • Topic: Textual Analysis (narration, focalization, character constellation, plot & story, themes & motifs)
  • Primary Literature: Scott, Waverley
  • Handout Literature & Representation
  • Handout: Narratology
  • Task 5

Session 7: 11 June 2020: National Identity, Heroic Identity

  • Topic: Reconstructing Scottish History
  • Primary Literature: Scott, Waverley
  • Context: History and Theory
  • Secondary Reading: Trevor-Roper, Hugh. "The Invention of Tradition: The Highland Tradition of Scotland." The Invention of Tradition. Eds. Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1st. ed. 1983, repr. 2003. 15-42.
  • Task 6
  • evaluation

Session 8: 18 June 2020: Waverley and the Historical Novel

  • Topic: Reconstructing the History of the Historical Novel
  • Primary Literature: Scott, Waverley
  • Context: Genre
  • Secondary Reading: Borgmeier, Raimund. "Das Gattungsmodell: Sir Walter Scott, Waverley (1814)". Eds. Raimund Borgmeier and Bernhard Reitz. Der Historische Roman: 19. Jahrhundert. Heidelberg: Winter, 1984. 39-55.
  • feedback on evaluation
  [Hand in RPO #2 until session 9]

Session 9: 25 June 2020: Theory and Methods II

  • Lukacs, The Historical Novel (1937/1983); read esp. chapter 1
  • History and Fiction (W. Fluck)
  • Task 7

Session 10: 02 July 2020: Writing a Research Paper

  [Hand in RPO #3 until session 11]

Session 11: 09 July 2020: Looking Back

  • Final Questions
  • Examples for POA

Session 12: 16 July 2020: Looking Forward

  • feedback on RPOs
  • discussion of research papers

  [Hand in research papers until 15 September 2020]


Primary Reading

  • see above

Secondary Reading

  • will be made available via Stud.IP

Further Reading

  • cf. Stud.IP/Dateien