Before Novels

Overview

“By taking a close look at materials no previous twentieth-century critic has seriously investigated in literary terms—ephemeral journalism, moralistic tracts, questions-and-answer columns, ‘wonder’ narratives—Paul Hunter discovers a tangled set of roots for the early novel. His provocative argument for a new historicized understanding of the genre and its early readers brilliantly reveals unexpected affinities.” —Patricia Meyer Spacks, Edgar F. Shannon Professor of English, University of Virginia
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Overview

“By taking a close look at materials no previous twentieth-century critic has seriously investigated in literary terms—ephemeral journalism, moralistic tracts, questions-and-answer columns, ‘wonder’ narratives—Paul Hunter discovers a tangled set of roots for the early novel. His provocative argument for a new historicized understanding of the genre and its early readers brilliantly reveals unexpected affinities.” —Patricia Meyer Spacks, Edgar F. Shannon Professor of English, University of Virginia
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.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Shimmering with vitality, this widely researched work gives the pendulum of critical opinion a powerful thrust in its movement away from New Criticism as it emphasizes contexts over texts. Assuming that the critic's chief task lies with an age's ``likes and the patterns they make,'' Hunter, a professor at the University of Chicago, here examines the rich and eclectic heritage of the early English novel. He shows how major writers and those long forgotten reflected and molded the tastes and values of their times; how the literature of the pulpit and the street, of the biographer and the autobiographer, of the historian and the romancer all impinged upon the consciousness of the men and women who wrote novels. Most interesting, perhaps, is the discussion of the complex cultural factors behind the transformation of ``Once upon a time . . . '' to ``I was born . . .'' The book is a mine of liberating insights for those who enjoy the likes of Richardson, Fielding and Smollett. (Aug.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393308617
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 8/1/1994
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 448
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

J. Paul Hunter is Barbara E. and Richard J. Franke Professor Emeritus at the University of Chicago. He is the author of The Reluctant Pilgrim: Defoe’s Emblematic Method and Quest for Form in Robinson Crusoe; Occasional Form: Henry Fielding and the Chains of Circumstance; and Before Novels: The Cultural Contexts of Eighteenth-Century English Fiction. He is author of the first nine editions of The Norton Introduction to Poetry and the long-time co-editor of The Norton Introduction to Literature and New Worlds of Literature.

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