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The Novel of Purpose: Literature and Social Reform in the Anglo-American World
     

The Novel of Purpose: Literature and Social Reform in the Anglo-American World

by Amanda Claybaugh
 
In the nineteenth century, Great Britain and the United States shared a single literary marketplace that linked the reform movements, as well as the literatures, of the two nations. The writings of transatlantic reformers—antislavery, temperance, and suffrage activists—gave novelists a new sense of purpose and prompted them to invent new literary forms. The

Overview

In the nineteenth century, Great Britain and the United States shared a single literary marketplace that linked the reform movements, as well as the literatures, of the two nations. The writings of transatlantic reformers—antislavery, temperance, and suffrage activists—gave novelists a new sense of purpose and prompted them to invent new literary forms. The result was a distinctively Anglo-American realism, in which novelists, conceiving of themselves as reformers, sought to act upon their readers—and, through their readers, the world. Indeed, reform became so predominant that many novelists borrowed from reformist writings even though they were skeptical of reform itself. Among them are some of the century's most important authors: Anne Brontë, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, Henry James, Elizabeth Stoddard, and Mark Twain. The Novel of Purpose proposes a new way of understanding social reform in Great Britain and the United States. Amanda Claybaugh offers readings that connect reformist agitation to the formal features of literary works and argues for a method of transatlantic study that attends not only to nations, but also to the many groups that collaborate across national boundaries.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"In a work of impressive range and depth, Amanda Claybaugh focuses on the exchanges and reciprocal influences of American and English novelists of the nineteenth century. Several concentric arguments thread through Claybaugh's book, but the most foundational is the contention that English-language print culture in the nineteenth century was above all transnational, bound together by transatlantic reprinting, circulation, and mutual influence. And of all these connective links, social reform, Claybaugh argues, was particularly potent in binding together the two nations and their literatures, functioning as a 'central conduit for these exchanges'. . . . The Novel of Purpose is densely packed with finely honed arguments and observations, but a few points merit mention. First, Claybaugh's discussion of realism is a refreshing and important contribution to a well-worked-over field. With admirable poise, she offers a precise and clear definition of realism, distinguishes Anglo-American from continental realism, and charts the complicated history of realist criticism over the last several decades. . . . The Novel of Purpose is well written, impressively researched, and wide ranging. Claybaugh offers an important and long overdue analysis of this novelistic genre, and her book deserves to rank among the finest recent contributions to transnational literary history."—Claudia Stokes, H-SHGAPE, H-Net Reviews, November 2007

"The Novel of Purpose is a major contribution to the study of nineteenth-century literature on both sides of the Atlantic—one, moreover, that provides innovative and timely insight into the complex relationship between aesthetic production and political engagement."—Michael Sayeau, Novel: A Forum on Fiction

"This is a wide-ranging, learned, elegant, and subtle book that makes an original contribution to the presently burgeoning field of Anglophone literary and cultural studies by adopting a transatlantic perspective on the generative relationship between social reform and the emergence of literary realism."—Mary Loeffelholz, Northeastern University

"In The Novel of Purpose, Amanda Claybaugh makes a number of illuminating and convincing connections between the literary and reform traditions of England and those of the United States. This book provides sharp insights into the performative nature of 'the novel of purpose,' showing how reformist intentions, even when they were disavowed or domesticated, helped establish national structures of feeling that were circulated transnationally. Claybaugh examines her subjects with clarity and ease."—Russ Castronovo, Jean Wall Bennett Professor of English and American Studies, University of Wisconsin–Madison

"The Novel of Purpose offers a wonderfully incisive and provocative account of the links between social reform and novelistic realism in nineteenth-century Britain and America. As it makes the case for a distinctive Anglo-American realism shaped by common reformist goals within a single literary marketplace, Amanda Claybaugh's work transforms our understanding not only of the nineteenth-century novel, but also of the very idea of the transatlantic."—James Eli Adams, Cornell University

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780801444807
Publisher:
Cornell University Press
Publication date:
12/01/2006
Pages:
264
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)

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