SAMPLE READING LIST: Nineteenth-Century British Novel


The primary purpose of this field is to survey the most important authors, genres, and trends in the nineteenth century British novel. As much as possible, I have attempted to define "importance" both in terms of literary canonicity and in terms of historical change. Thus, although the reading includes an in depth study of several major authors (particularly Austen and Dickens), I have organized the major field primarily around landmarks in the history of literary genres. The list will allow me to trace the development of the following genres: the Bildungsroman; the historical novel; the regional novel; the provincial novel; the gothic novel; the industrial novel; the sensation novel; the detective novel; the science fiction novel; the New Woman novel. Although all these types of novel have been definitely identified as discrete genres, either by nineteenth century readers or by recent literary criticism, I am interested in these generic divisions partly because of their evident mutability. For instance, the most canonical of all Victorian novels -Eliot's Middlemarch- might be defined as a provincial novel, a historical novel, a double Bildungsroman, or (more generally) a classic work of realism. In contrast, clear generic categories can more easily be assigned to the less canonical novels which mark a historical breakthrough (for instance, the emergence of the regional novel with Edgeworth's Castle Rackrent or of the sensation novel with Collins' The Woman in White).

Although the reading is organized by chronology and genre, I am also interested in exploring a number of formal and thematic questions which link together novels from different genres and periods. In formal terms, I am particularly interested in the role of the omniscient narrator; in the narrative structure of the "multi plot" novel; and in the creation of novels out of elements of the journalistic sketch (for instance, in Pickwick Papers and Vanity Fair). In thematic terms, I am particularly interested in the construction of male and female gender roles; in definitions of nationhood and ethnicity; and in the conceptions of history and politics that are incorporated within the novels' narratives of personal development. I hope that, as I begin to synthesize my reading in the next few months, I will be able to relate these formal and thematic questions more coherently to my overall interest in the history of nineteenth century novelistic genres.


— Nancy Armstrong, Desire and Domestic Fiction: A Political History of the British Novel
— Pierre Bourdieu, The Field of Cultural Production
— Peter Brooks, Reading for the Plot
— Fredric Jameson, The Political Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act
— Georg Lukacs, The Historical Novel; The Theory of the Novel
— D.A. Miller, The Novel and the Police
— Franco Moretti, Signs Taken for Wonders; The Way of the World: The Bildungsroman in European Culture
— Garrett Stewart, Dear Reader: The Conscripted Audience in Nineteenth Century British Fiction
— Katie Trumpener, Bardic Nationalism: the Romantic Novel and the British Empire
— Raymond Williams, The Country and the City; Culture and Society, 1780 1950


Ann Radcliffe, The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794)
Maria Edgeworth, Castle Rackrent (1800)
Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey (1803/1818)
— Sense and Sensibility (1811)
— Pride and Prejudice (1813)
— Mansfield Park (1814)
— Emma (1816)
— Persuasion (1818)
Walter Scott, Waverley (1814)
— The Antiquary (1816)
— Ivanhoe (1819)
— Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (1818)
Charles Dickens, The Pickwick Papers (1837)
— Oliver Twist (1838)
— David Copperfield (1850)
— Bleak House (1853)
— Little Dorrit (1857)
— Great Expectations (1861)
— Our Mutual Friend (1865)
Benjamin Disraeli, Sybil (1845)
Elizabeth Gaskell, Mary Barton (1848)
—  Cranford (1853)
Charlotte Bronte, The Professor (1846/1857)
— Jane Eyre (1847)
— Villette (1853 )
Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights (1847)
Anne Bronte, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848)
William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair (1848)
— Pendennis (1850)
— Henry Esmond (1852)
Anthony Trollope, Barchester Towers (1857)
— Can You Forgive Her? (1864)
George Meredith, The Ordeal of Richard Feverel (1859)
Wilkie Collins, The Woman in White (1860)
— The Moonstone (1868)
Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Lady Audley's Secret (1862)
George Eliot,  The Mill on the Floss (1860)
— Felix Holt, The Radical (1866)
— Middlemarch (1869)
— Daniel Deronda (1876)
Robert Louis Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886)
Thomas Hardy, The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886)
— Tess of the D' Urbervilles (1891)
— Jude the Obscure (1895)
Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891)
George Gissing, New Grub Street (1893)
H.G. Wells, The Time Machine (1895)
Arthur Conan Doyle, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1892)
Sarah Grand, The Heavenly Twins (1893)
George Du Maurier, Trilby (1894)
Bram Stoker, Dracula (1897)
Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady (1881)
— The Turn of the Screw (1898)
— The Wings of the Dove (1902)