Before Novels: The Cultural Contexts of Eighteenth-Century English Fiction

Before Novels: The Cultural Contexts of Eighteenth-Century English Fiction[BOOKS] ✯ Before Novels: The Cultural Contexts of Eighteenth-Century English Fiction By J. Paul Hunter – Heartforum.co.uk What did people read before there were novels Not necessarily just other literary works, according to this fascinating study of the beginnings of the English novel To understand the origins of the nov The Cultural MOBI î What did people read before there were novels Not necessarily just other literary works, according to this fascinating study of the beginnings of the English novel To understand the origins of the novel as a species and to read individual novels well, we must know several pasts and traditions even non fictional and non narrative traditions, even non artistic and non written pasts that at first might seem far removed from the pleasures readers find in modern novels.

The Cultural MOBI î Is a well known author, some of his books are a fascination for readers like in the Before Novels: The Cultural Contexts of Eighteenth Century English Fiction book, this is one of the most wanted J Paul Hunter author readers around the world.

Before Novels: The Cultural Contexts of Eighteenth-Century
    Import EPUB to the Program Import EPUB species and to read individual novels well, we must know several pasts and traditions even non fictional and non narrative traditions, even non artistic and non written pasts that at first might seem far removed from the pleasures readers find in modern novels."/>
  • Paperback
  • Before Novels: The Cultural Contexts of Eighteenth-Century English Fiction
  • J. Paul Hunter
  • English
  • 20 October 2017
  • 0393308618

10 thoughts on “Before Novels: The Cultural Contexts of Eighteenth-Century English Fiction

  1. Daniel says:

    Hunter adopts a historicist approach, and doesn t argue something so much as introduce us to an array of cultural contexts from which the novel emerged, asserting that novels have to be read against a far broader context of cultural texts and materials in order for us to have any notion of how they seemed to early readers xvi Hunter admires Watt s thesis, as propounded in The Rise of the Novel he applauds his sociological basis of the English Novel, and claims, actually, to be writin Hunter adopts a historicist approach, and doesn t argue something so much as introduce us to an array of cultural contexts from which the novel emerged, asserting that novels have to be read against a far broader context of cultural texts and materials in order for us to have any notion of how they seemed to early readers xvi Hunter admires Watt s thesis, as propounded in The Rise of the Novel he applauds his sociological basis of the English Novel, and claims, actually, to be writing under his inspiration Hunter s intention in writing this book is to complicate Watt s thesis which suffers from oversimplification by identifying a cluster of frequently overlooked traditions some non fictional, non narrative, non artistic, even non written that existed before novels and prepared early 18th century readers for the new form when it arrived The phenomenon that s come to be known as the rise of the novel isn t something that can be explained in simple terms, according to Hunter He generally avoids causation claims, and is extremely careful when he does make them Instead of delineating neat literary paternities, he recreates the world of 18th century England in all its sprawling diversity with its ephemeral print journalism, didacticism, wonder narratives, guide books, private histories, etc and leaves us to make our own connections, suggesting possible relationships along the way He acknowledges that there swork to be done, and invites others to build on his findings.I Texts1st and 2nd Wave NoveltyThere is a universal perception in England by midcentury, Hunter writes, that a literary revolution is taking place This observation is similar regardless of the evaluation or the stakes Conservatives were worried about change, while rebels celebrated it Such rebels believed that traditional forms and conventions were too constricted and rigid to represent modern reality The traditionalists, on the other hand cultural guardians like Alexander Pope believed in the continuing vitality of the Christian humanist heritage, and saw the new, modern way of writing as indicating slipped standards and debased values, the destruction of all that was fine in the tradition Hunter identifies two distinct waves of literary novelty in England, the 1st occurring between the 1690s and the deaths of Pope 44 and Swift 45 , the second occurring after in the novels of Richardson, Fielding, and their successors 1st wave novelty represents tastes that at first seem simply aberrant, transitory, and trivial The fact that the first wave of novelty left so little mark had something to do with the powerful Augustan counterattack think Battle of the Books, Dunciad, etc , but equally important was the fact that the innovators had little sense of what a vital new literature might look like In 2nd wave novelty, pioneer novelists like Richardson and Fielding codified and extended the bold novelty of their predecessors, creating a broad cultural consciousness among readers and potential writers that a significant and lasting form had been created even if there were still major issues of definition and that whole careers could be built on their foundations The Novel Until quite late in the 18th century, the term novel was used very loosely and imprecisely, often implying littlethan opprobrium and contempt Sometimes it designated tales shorter than traditional romances, sometimes it claimed the plot of love and intrigue, and sometimes it implied a native heritage rather than continental loyalties In the late 17th and early 18th centuries, novel as often applied to narratives not substantially different from romances sometimes the terms romance and novel were used interchangably, and the generic term in other linguistic traditions often does not make distinctions that have come to seem crucial to the English tradition of lengthy fiction, roman in French or romanzo in Italian encompassing, in each case, both novels and romances hence le roman moderne and il romanzo moderno Note Hunter incorrectly translates the word novel into the Italian nouvelle When a distinction was made, it usually involved length, novels being relatively short compared to romances much as we now distinguish novellas from novels , a usage that seems to have developed from the French nouvelle or the Italian novelle a diminutive story whose material is fresh, untraditional, and whose resolution is extraordinarily surprising But short English novels did not necessarily follow their French and Italian models in rejecting traditional plots or other established, and the works labeled novels in the late 17th century or early 18th century most often looked backward in spite of their name than forward.Some early writers did use the term novel in a way that, in quite a general sense, points to our modern idea Congreve for instance, in 1692, distinguishes between novels and romances Romances are generally composed of the Constant Loves and invincible Courages of Hero s, Heroins, Kings and Queens, Mortals of the first Rank, and so forth where lofty Language, miraculous Contingencies and impossible Performances, elevate and surprize the Reader into a giddy Delight, which leaves him flat upon the Ground whenever he gives of, and vexes him to think how he has suffer d himself to be pleased and transported, concern d and afflicted at the several Passages which he has Read, viz these Knights Success to their Damosels Misfortunes, and such like, when he is forced to be very well convinced that tis all a lye Novels are of afamiliar nature Come near us, and represent to us Intrigues in practice, delight us with Accidents and odd Events, but not such as are wholly unusual or unpresidented, such which not being so distant from our Belief bring also the pleasure nearer us Romances giveof Wonder, NovelsDelight But even so hesitating and imprecise a description is rare, and one cannot find common agreement about the meaning of the term until the kind of retrospective view that Clara Reeve began to codify in 1785 And so, despite some of her own ambivalences, it was Reeve who has set the tone for most subsequent discussion of what the novel is because it was she who separated the novel definitively from romance in The Progress of Romance through Times, Centuries and Manners 1785 a theoretical work of criticism written in dialogue form, whose importance lies partly in its spirited attempt to distinguish between the ancient romance and the modern novel Here s the crucial exchange only partially cited by Hunter Euphrasia The word Novel in all languages signifies something new It was first used to distinguish these works from Romance, though they have lately been confounded together and are frequently mistaken for each other Sophronia But how will you draw the line of distinction, so as to separate them effectually, and prevent further mistakes Euphrasia I will attempt this distinction, and I presume if it is properly done it will be followed, If not, you are but where you were before The Romance is an heroic fable, which treats of fabulous persons and things The Novel is a picture of real life and manners, and of the times in which it is written The Romance in lofty and elevated language, describes what never happened nor is likely to happen The Novel gives a familiar relation of such things, as pass every day before our eyes, such as may happen to our friend, or to ourselves and the perfection of it, is to represent every scene, in so easy and natural a manner, and to make them appear so probable, as to deceive us into a per suasion at least while we are reading that all is real, until we are affected by the joys or distresses, of the persons in the story, as if they were our own In closing section I, Hunter notes an unfortunate, if unintended, outcome of Reeve s distinction Because the novel traces its terminological existence from romance, literary theory and theoretical criticism have generally assumed some kind of parent child relationship between the two, a misleading historical state of affairs If the novel needs to be distinguished from romance, it does not follow that the novel descended from romance.II Contexts New ReadersIn chapter 4 6, Hunter puts the literary experience of the early novel into a large historical and cultural perspective by suggesting prevailing social and psychological patterns that influenced readers as the novel emerged Using newly acquired population statistics, he confirms the notion of increasing Anglophone literacy, and asserts that literacy in the English speaking world grew rapidly between 1600 and 1800, so that by the latter date the vast majority of adult males could read and write, whereas only two centuries earlier only a select minority could do so Female literacy was lower, though data is too scant to say by what degree This increase comes almost completely from the classes of artisans, shopkeepers, yeoman, husbandmen, laborers, and servants i.e., the occupationally middling Most of this increase, as it turns out, also took place in the early 17th century, three generations before the novel began emerging, as a result of the Protestant Reformation Therefore, the ancestors of mid 18th century novel readers were the ones to cross the linguistic divide in the brawling but heady years between James I and Charles II Hunter identifies four characteristics shared by so called new readers readers, that is, who, in the late 17th century, were potential consumers of novels 1st, new readers werelikely to be urban than rural 2nd,likely to be ambitious and keen on rising up in the world 3rd,likely to have mobilized from rural to urban areas with their quick pace, crowds, loneliness, impersonality, and sense of displacement, etc and 4th,likely to be young The Decline of Fairy TalesHunter underscores the curious dearth of fairy tales produced and transmitted in 17th century England, arguing that they disappeared from the public consciousness as a result of the Reformation, their household familiarity in Shakespeare s day having dwindled to nothing by the time of Henry and Sarah Fielding Their disappearance, he writes, is part of a larger distrust and suppression of oral culture in the seventeenth century Puritanism rejected any traces of the pagan tradition and anything even vaguely associated with Merry Old England The broader distrust of orality meant that traditional channels for cultural meaning and individual adjustment were not easily available and not sanctioned when they were Novels, Hunter writes, pick up where such oral narratives leave off, both the former and latter telling young people of a world beyond their personal experiences III Pre textsJournalismLong before Samuel Richardson showed readers and writers of fiction how to savor a single human instant a thousand ways, the world of print had begun its long liaison with the up to date, the latest news, and the present moment, trying to provide a sense that the printing press offered a technology for nearly instant replay of human experience Such a sense was crucial to many kinds of art and cultural experience in England in the late 17th century because the culture had developed a fixation on contemporaneity, part of its larger interest in discovery, enlightenment, and novelty The desire for acute awareness of the latest events and for innovation and originality both features of the contemporary consciousness contribute to the emergence of the peculiarly present centered form of narrative we now call appropriately enough the novel Jour nalism, the news, the news paper, the novel all are expressions of this new appetite for contemporaneity Timeliness was a crucial element of conversation talking to the moment was as crucial to the coffeehouse consciousness and daily life in London as it was in the novel This widespread desire for news developed during the English Civil Wars, when Englishmen and women felt they had much personally at stake in every public event By the 1690, with its subject matter expanding, an audience of eavesdroppers was essentially creating itself The sense of filling in the details, helping to write the full history of the time and ultimately of reality itself, is prominent in the eclectic subjects covered by journals Hunter does not claim that journalism gave rise to the novel he simply argues that the consciousness that made the present moment the center of human attention and led to the directions of modern journalism helped prepare the cultural context for novelists preoccupations, too, and that crucial dimensions of the novel seem unimaginable without the peculiar combination of News, and New Things that obsessed English culture at the turn of the 18thcentury Strange, but True Fact, Certainty, and the Desire for WonderOne tradition of printed materials became especially important and held sway over the popular imagination in England from the last quarter of the 17th century until the novel emerged as a cultural force It in effect links the empirical thinking that finds its way into the novel with its opposite, the desire to retain a sense of awe and mystery and find, even in everyday life, something strange and surprising These books seem to have been designed to find phenomenon and events that eluded ready rational explanation One example is so called Providence literature, which was intended to influence God s continuing influence in human history a symptom of the secularization and scientific mindedness gradually spreading over Europe DidacticismMost published writings and an astonishing amount of private discourse in the late 17th and early 18th centuries in England were religious in subject matter and didactic in intent so fully so as almost to constitute a definition of taste, desire, and habit Hunter notes that the reason such materials have been largely neglected by literary historians is that they strike modern readers as inherently wrongheaded, narrow, ineffectively focused, and boring This is a mistake Hunter argues that it is impossible to fully understand early British fiction without understanding the didactic traditions that inform it Hunter identifies six features of didacticism that clarify its cultural importance the 1st is a powerful sense of good and evil, a confidence in absolutes intended to instill principles in an increasingly scientific world that seemed fuller every day of shades of grey the 2nd is a faith in language to affect the behavior of reader in rational and predictable ways the 3rd is a heightened tone and urgent sense of interiority with the kind of imperative mood, second person constructions, exclamation points, and interjections that seem to originate from righteous indignation and moral concern the 4th is a tendency to address readers directly and personally the 5th is a tilt to Horation instruction as opposed to Horation delight the 6th is a tone of authority and air of certainty from moralists keen to halt what they saw as a society undergoing rapid deterioration People especially young people in new circumstances, loosened from the security of family, the familiarity of their community, the traditional sources of stories and lore needed desperately to feel grounded, to gain basic information about how their new world worked and what was expected of them what the codes and rules were, what behavior was appropriate, which people who one could trust, what the implications for ignorance and deviation were, etc Hunter makes a tentative typology of didactic texts, regretting the paucity of existing research on the subject Most early novelists learned their craft as didactacists by writing in one orsubkinds Defoe wrote guides for families, tradesmen, and gentlemen, providence books, etc Richardson wrote letter writing manuals and moral treatises Fielding wrote moral and religious essays, etc Haywood wrote essays and cultural criticism Sterne wrote homilies, etc Novels were, to most novelists, just onespecies in which to work their skills and promote their ethical and social ideas a bit looser and less defined than most of the standard didactic subkinds but otherwise not, at first, much better, or worse, or different GuidesBy far the most popular of the identifiable kinds of didactic para literature of the time and the closest in spirit to the novel is the guide Guides address all sorts of situations and circumstances, practical, spiritual, and personal The verbal guidance of books began to replace the sense that exemplary personal guidance of parents, pastors, and patriarchs was necessary to proper conduct The context that led to the extensive production of guides involves lost personal contact and radically changed institutions and situations it was that very change that not only made the novel possible but in some basic sense necessary Against IdlenessOn the hazards of idleness, there is a powerful agreement from the time of the Puritan Commonwealth until late into the eighteenth century Whether one regards the cultural anxiety about idleness as an aspect of Puritan consciousness, the Protestant ethic, urban economics, rising worries about education and personal fulfillment, or revulsion against aristocratic customs and rural place, the net result is that writers of all stripes agree that idleness is a damnable sin In insisting that they were redeeming leisure, transforming idleness into practical guidance, both recommending and illustrating self examination, and especially materializing examples within a rhetoric of attraction, novels set themselves to answer directly against the charges made most often against idle fictions and wanton tales DiariesPrivate writings came to exist in the 17th century because English and, slightly later, American men and women, not just a few religious extremists, believed that their eternal salvation was closely linked to the events of their private lives that reading one s life analytically could provide awareness of one s spiritual status The recording and analysis of these events, in minute and painstaking detail, became a sacred duty and a common Protestant practice, and diary keeping became a national habit practiced by a large percentage of those who were literate Early diary keeps shared with Augustine a profound sense of individual responsibility It is the novel that creates a formal space for such a proliferation of private details The novel needs, depends upon, and devours such details Later, the 18th century saw the gradual rise of biography and autobiography , a genre that became increasingly willing to cover the lives of moderately distinguished, as well as historically emblematic, individuals something novels do as well Finally, Hunter closes by briefly establishing the contextual importance of history, biography, and travel narratives for the novel

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