Review by Choice Review
Warner (Univ. of California, Santa Barbara) says literary historians have falsely assumed that the English novel is an aesthetic object, realistic, and descended from Defoe, Richardson, and Fielding. In this investigation of the morality claimed for novels as products of English culture and as realistic representations, the author reveals that Behn, Manley, and Haywood are precursors of Richardson and Fielding, who, though antagonistic to earlier writers, nonetheless "over-write" their characters and situations. Aphra Behn's Love Letters reflects a media shift to a new genre of sexual-political scandal. Amours frees readers from realist authoritarian political discourse in seducing them to articulate their desires. Despite its moralizing, Delarivi`ere Manley's The New Atalantis similarly attracts its readers toward pleasure. Eliza Haywood's Love in Excess then introduces formula fiction stressing plot, suspense, didacticism, formal patterning, and episodic incompleteness. Warner shows how these shifts led Richardson to represent Pamela as an antinovel, though he is indebted to the earlier amorous novels. Correcting Ian P. Watt's The Rise of the Novel (1957), Warner incorporates recent research on 18th-century readers--e.g., John J. Richetti's Popular Fiction before Richardson (1992) and Michael McKeon's The Origins of the English Novel, 1600-1740 (CH, Sep'87)--as well as his own earlier studies, including Reading Clarissa (CH, Nov'79). Recommended to upper-division undergraduates through faculty for its judicious clarity. R. E. Wiehe; University of Massachusetts at Lowell
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
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