Progress of Romance: Literary Historiography and the Gothic Novel

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In this vigorous response to recent trends in theory and criticism, David H. Richter asks how we can again learn to practice literary history. Despite the watchword "always historicize," comparatively few monographs attempt genuine historical explanations of literary phenomena. Richter theorizes that the contemporary evasion of history may stem from our sense that the modern literary ideas underlying our historical explanations - Marxism, formalism, and reception theory - are unable, by themselves, to inscribe an...
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Overview

In this vigorous response to recent trends in theory and criticism, David H. Richter asks how we can again learn to practice literary history. Despite the watchword "always historicize," comparatively few monographs attempt genuine historical explanations of literary phenomena. Richter theorizes that the contemporary evasion of history may stem from our sense that the modern literary ideas underlying our historical explanations - Marxism, formalism, and reception theory - are unable, by themselves, to inscribe an adequate narrative of the origins, development, and decline of genres and style systems. Despite theorists' attempts to incorporate others principles of explanation, each of these master narratives on its own has areas of blindness and areas of insight, questions it can answer and questions it cannot even ask. But the explanations, however differently focused, complement one another, with one supplying what another lacks. Using the first heyday of the Gothic novel as the prime object of study, Richter develops his pluralistic vision of literary history in practice. Successive chapters outline first a neo-Marxist history of the Gothic, using the ideas of Raymond Williams and Terry Eagleton to understand the literature of terror as an outgrowth of inexorable tensions within Georgian society; next, a narrative on the Gothic as an institutional form, drawn from the formalist theories of R. S. Crane and Ralph Rader; and finally a study of the reception of the Gothic - the way the romance was sustained by, and in its turn altered, the motives for literary response in the British public around the turn of the nineteenth century. In his concluding chapter, Richter returns to the question of theory, to general issues of adequacy and explanatory power in literary history, to the false panaceas of Foucauldian new historicism and cultural studies, and to the necessity of historical pluralism. A learned, engaging, and important book. The Progress of Romance is esse
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Taking the first heyday of the Gothic novel as his guinea pig, Richter demonstrates his pluralistic vision of literary history. He outlines a neo-Marxist history of the Gothic that understands the literature of terror as an outgrowth of tensions within Georgian society, interprets Gothic as an institutional form, and examines how genre both altered and was sustained by the motives for literary responses in the British public. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
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Product Details

Table of Contents

Preface
Ch. 1 Toward a Pluralistic Historiography of Literature 1
Ch. 2 Theories of Literary History 22
Ch. 3 The Gothnic in History 53
Ch. 4 The Progress of Romance: The Gothic as an Institutional Form 83
Ch. 5 The Reception of the Gothic Novel in the 1790s 109
Ch. 6 Ghosts of the Gothic 125
Ch. 7 Historiographical Speculations 155
Notes 181
Works Cited 207
Index 231
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