The Elevation of Novel Reading

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Transcript The Elevation of Novel Reading

Menu of choices for Seminar Report #2
5/5: Sentimental Journey – Michael?
5/5: Armstrong: the fiction of bourgeois morality
5/12: Burney's Evilina – Bethany?
5/12: Deidre Lynch OR Rose & St. Clair (on copyright)
5/19: Scott's Waverley and Trumpener
5/19: Leah Price on Anthology and the rise of the novel
4/26: Oliver Twist and illustration
[DATE open, but we don't want more than 2 reports in an
DATE FLEXIBLE #1: Bakhtin on the theory of the novel
DATE FLEXIBLE #2: Moretti ("History of the Novel, Theory of the
Novel”; other Moretti)
The Elevation of Novel Reading in Britain 1700-1957
A narrative in 5 episodes and 3 stages
Episode 1: with Pamela, Richardson incorporates and
overwrites the novels of amorous intrigue
Pamela incorporates elements of the
novels of amorous intrigue
Pamela overwrites (erases/replaces) novels
with a truthful and elevating “history”
• the presence of the intriguing
libertine who drives the plot of
the novel (Fantomina, B)
• the use of disguise, which by
fooling others, gives the
schemer control (Fantomina,
• the egotism of the libertine
aim (of sex and pleasure) at
the expense of others
• a world of fantasy
gratification—where Pamela is
Cinderella who gets to marry
the prince.
Christianity: the journal as a
spiritual autobiography of the self
at risk of damnation..  the self as
in-process and emergent
Conduct discourse: this discourse is
not personal but general (about
best life practices), it is not private
(between her and God) but public,
normative and thus exemplary
Comic drama: the detailed,
circumstantial accounts of Pamela’s
letter-diary allows Richardson to
render the actual speech of voices
in the social world (c.f. Bakhtin)
Episode 2: the Pamela Media-Event
Nov 7, 1740: Richardson’s Pamela 1st edition
• Oct., 1741: Pamela 5th edition
Jan. 6, 1741: Before this date, Dr.
• Nov. 1741: Charles Povey’s The Virgin
Benjamin Slocock recommends it from pulpit
in Eden
of St. Saviour’s
• Nov. 3, 1741: Shamela 2nd edition
• Nov. 9, 1741: Pamela: A Comedy performed at
• Feb. 14, 1741: Richardson’s Pamela,
Goodman’s Fields; (published 11/17)
2nd edition: including “Introduction, with
• Dec. 7, 1741: Richardson’s sequel
“Letters to the Editor”, and “Verses” (Aaron
to Pamela: Pamela in her Exalted Condition,
published as vols. 3&4 of regular, as well as
deluxe octavo, editions; the latter has
• March 12, 1741: Pamela 3 edition
engravings by Hayman
• April 2, 1741: Fielding’s Shamela 1st edition
• Feb. 22, 1742: Fielding’s Joseph Andrews,
• April 24, 1741: Pamela Censured
1st edition (1,500 copies)
• May 31, 1742: 2nd ed of Joseph Andrews,
• May, 1741: Pamela 4th edition
2nd edition (2,000 copies)
• May 7, 1741: Richardson advertises against
• Sept., 1742: Pamela in High Life continues
Kelly sequel
where Vol. 1 of Kelly had stopped
• May 28, 1741: Vol. 1 of Kelly’s Pamela’s
• 1742: The Virtuous Orphan: or, the Life of
Marianne. Anonymous translation of Marivaux,
Conduct in High Life
in its
moral sensibility."
origin isAntinot an historical event,
but the
in public of
• Media
June 16,
• 1743: March 28: Joseph Andrews 3rd edition
object; the object becomes the
of atavistic and widespread
1st edition
(3,000 copies)
it triggers
rip-offs and critical commentary: is it
• interest;
Sept, 1741:
Vol. 2 of Kelly’s
in High
Life what does it mean?
or bad,
Episode 3: Explaining the pleasures and dangers of Pamela
• How do you present virtue so it is not contaminated by the
possibility that this is a motivated performance?
(Fried’s Absorption and Theatricality)
– (Chardin ~ Richardson) depicting the simple souls of the bourgeois
home in states of absorption (writing, sorting clothes, etc.)
– melodramatic scenes of “virtue in distress” (like "The Bolt") have
the dramatic unity, intensity and intelligibility that produces an
anti-theatrical “narrowing, heightening and abstracting” of the
beholding itself
– Richardson’s letter novels promote what Fried finds in these
paintings: the “supreme fiction” of the beholder’s absence
• Because of the ‘cover’ provided by the Christian and conduct book
rationales for Pamela, we lured into pornographic looking:
– Pamela Censured (anon) versus Pamela’s Conduct in High Life
Episode 4: The significance of the Pamela Media Event
Richardson versus Fielding
• For Pamelists: Richardson’s history offers a new model
for moral narrative
• For antipamelist: dangerous identifications, the reward
for virtue is too material…
– Shamela (1741): travesty that punctures Pamela’s claim to
– Joseph Andrews (1742): the development of a
comprehensive alterative way of writing a narrative history
• BUT, this critical public debate turns Pamela into a free
standing character who could be exposed to detailed
• By polemicizing on behalf of a “new species of writing”,
both Richardson and Fielding are writing rough drafts
for a new literary history
Episode 5: the post Richardson-Fielding debate about
the novel: Samuel Johnson Rambler #4 (1750)
Romances involved no danger to readers: In the romances formerly written, every transaction and
sentiment was so remote from all that passes among men, that the reader was in very little danger
of making any application to himself; the virtues and crimes were equally beyond his sphere of
activity; and he amused himself with heroes and with traitors, deliverers and persecutors, as with
beings of another species, whose actions were regulated upon motives of their own, and who had
neither faults nor excellences in common with himself.
But, the modern familiar histories have produced a new kind of reader involvement: But when an
adventurer is leveled with the rest of the world, and acts in such scenes of the universal drama, as
may be the lot of any other man; young spectators fix their eyes upon him with closer attention,
and hope by observing his behavior and success to regulate their own practices, …
A new moral opportunity and danger is before us: For this reason these familiar histories may
perhaps be made of greater use than the solemnities of professed morality, and convey the
knowledge of vice and virtue with more efficacy than axioms and definitions. But if the power of
example is so great, as to take possession of the memory by a kind of violence, and produce effects
almost without the intervention of the will, care ought to be taken that, when the choice is
unrestrained, the best examples only should be exhibited; and that which is likely to operate so
strongly, should not be mischievous or uncertain in its effects.
Rejecting the mixed characters of Fielding and Smollett: It is therefore not a sufficient vindication
of a character, that it is drawn as it appears, for many characters ought never to be drawn;…Many
writers, for the sake of following nature, so mingle good and bad qualities in their principal
personages, that they are both equally conspicuous;…
Episode 5 (2) Richardson’s most famous advocate:
Denis Diderot, "Eloge de Richardson"
(in Journal Etranger, January. 1762)
By 'novel' we have until now understood a tissue of fantastic and
frivolous events which presented a threat to the taste and morals of
its readers. I should like another name to be found for the works
of Richardson, which raise the spirit, touch the heart, are
permeated with a love for what is good, and are also called novels.
A maxim is an abstract, general rule of conduct whose application is
left to ourselves. It does not of itself impress any perceptible image
on our minds: but in the case of someone who acts, we see him, we
put ourselves in his place or by his side, we enlist enthusiastically
for or against him; we identify with his role if he is virtuous and we
draw indignantly away from it if he is unjust of vicious.
…O Richardson! whether we wish it or not, we play a part in your
works, we intervene in the conversation, we give it approval and
blame, we feel admiration, irritation and indignation.
A long view of the elevation of the novel
Stage 1: the debate about novel reading in 18th century Britain
• Early targets of the anti-novel discourse: novels of
amorous intrigue (Behn, Manley, Haywood),
French novels, …
• By mid-century: new legitimacy of the antinovelistic ‘histories’ of Richardson and Fielding
• New institutional formations give novels new
salience: circulating library, reviewing, …an
explosion in number of novels
• Literary histories (Reeve, Dunlap) argue the value
of novels; new multi-volume anthologies
(Barbauld, Scott) canonize (selected) 18th century
Stage 2: nationalizing the novel
• Early literary histories of the novel are cosmopolitan:
Clara Reeve and John Dunlop link the novels written in
England to French, Spanish and Italian novels
• The romantic critics Hazlitt, Sir Walter Scott and Taine
align the novel with emergence of the ‘free’ bourgeois
distinctly English subject
– E.g. Scott insists that Fielding’s characters “are as peculiar
to England as they are unknown to other countries… the
persons of the story live in England, travel in England,
quarrel and fight in England;…which adds not a little to the
verisimilitude of the tale.” (Lives of the Novelists, 46)
• The effect of this critical work: the English novel is
distinguished from foreign novels by being moral,
truthfully accurate, and proper. Now, the English novel
can pass itself off as ‘the’ only novel worth reading.
Stage 3: the realist claim for novels
19th and 20th centuries
• The Novel represents social reality more immediately and effectively than
any previous form of writing:
– “We find [in the novel] a close imitation of men and manners; we see the very
web and texture of society as it really exists, and as we meet with it when we
come into the world. If poetry has ‘something more divine in it,’ this savors
more of humanity. We are acquainted with the motives and characters of
mankind, imbibe our notions of vice and virtue from practical examples, and
are taught knowledge of the world, through the airy medium of romance.”
(Hazlitt, English Comic Writers, 106)
• Early form of this claim: a naïve documentary realism: Pamela’s letters
record what happened to her; this is the actual memoir of Robinson
Crusoe, Moll Flanders or Fanny Hill; etc.,
• BUT, the realist claim must confront the problem of language’s
unverifiabiltiy: there is nothing within language that can prove the truth of
that to which it affirms or the fidelity of its reference outside of language
(Licensing Entertainment, 34)
• So the aesthetic doctrine of “realism” emerges as a way to embed the
realist claim in an artificial ‘form’ or a technology for representation called
Literature (1st or 3rd person narrative; free indirect discourse, stream of
consciousness; three-part novels; etc.)
After the journey, what is “the” novel?
You have a choice…
• The blue pill: true novels have qualities that distinguish them from mere
fiction. Over the course of the novel’s long history, it has acquired valuable
features: the novel is moral, the novel is the true expression of the social
life of the nation; through various techniques, the novel represents reality.
By all these means, the novel sustains its claim to be the most important
and influential genre of modern literature. You live in the matrix.
• The red pill: the stability of the novel as literary genre is an illusion
produced by the historical sequence we have described. The reading
debate of the 18th century deposited the expectation that novels would be
moral, the romantic turn introduced the imperative to be national, the
realistic claim modulated from its naïve early documentary pretext to the
aesthetic strategy by which art produces a pleasing, formal, conventionbound experience of the real for willing readers. Now, deprogrammed, …
• …you can practice empirical relativism (ANT): stop trying to write the law
of the genre of the novel; instead, call all prose narrative fictions of love
and adventure ‘novels’; this catholic procedure defers the issue of quality
so as to trace the connections between novels and other things (i.e. do an
actor-network analysis of the history of the novel).