Between Self and Society explores the psychosocial dramas that galvanize six major British novels written between the eighteenth and twentieth centuries. The book challenges an influential misconception that has for too long hindered appreciation of the psychological novel. John Rodden argues that there should be no simplifying antithesis between psychological, “inner” conflicts (within the mind or “soul”) and institutional, “outer” conflicts (within family, class, community). Instead, it is the overarching, dramatic—yet often tortuous—relations between self and society that demand our attention. Rodden presents fresh interpretations of an eclectic group of prose fiction classics, including Tobias Smollett’s The Adventures of Roderick Random, William Godwin’s Caleb Williams, Thomas Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge, Ford Madox Ford’s The Good Soldier, Wyndham Lewis’s Tarr, and D. H. Lawrence’s Women in Love.
Far from being merely admirable experiments, let alone daring though interesting failures, these fictions are shown to possess aesthetic unity, stylistic consistency, and psychic force. Between Self and Society thus impels our careful reconsideration of novels that represent major artistic achievements, yet have been either unjustly neglected or appreciated in limiting ways that do injustice to their psychological aspects. Rodden’s vibrant discussion invites an upward revaluation of these works and encourages the full recognition of their value and significance in British literary history.
About the Author
John Rodden has been a faculty member at the University of Virginia, the University of Texas at Austin, and the University of Pennsylvania, among other institutions. He has published more than twenty books on topics ranging from British literary criticism and American intellectual history to comparative international education, European communism and post-communism, and the politics of human rights.
Table of Contents
Chapter One. Smollett's Roderick Random: In Love with Narcissa
Chapter Two. Godwin's Caleb Williams: "A Half-Told and Mangled Tale"
Chapter Three. Hardy's The Mayor of Casterbridge: The Infernal Triangle
Chapter Four. Ford's The Good Soldier: Movements of the Heart
Chapter Five. Lewis's Tarr: Portraits of the Failed Artist
Chapter Six. Lawrence's Women in Love: The Role of Miss "Dawington"