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In the Company of Strangers shows how a reconception of family and kinship underlies the revolutionary experiments of the modernist novel. While stories of marriage and long-lost relatives were a mainstay of classic Victorian fiction, Barry McCrea suggests that rival countercurrents within these family plots set the stage for the formal innovations of Joyce and Proust. Tracing the challenges to the family plot mounted by figures such as Fagin, Sherlock Holmes, Leopold Bloom, and Charles Swann, McCrea tells the story of how bonds generated by chance encounters between strangers come to take over the role of organizing narrative time and give shape to fictional worldsa task and power that was once the preserve of the genealogical family. By investigating how the question of family is a hidden key to modernist structure and style, In the Company of Strangers explores the formal narrative potential of queerness and in doing so rewrites the history of the modern novel.
About the Author
Barry McCrea is associate professor of comparative literature and English at Yale University and author of a novel, The First Verse.
Table of Contents
Modernism and the Family 1
Narrative and Family 8
The Stranger 14
1 Queer Expectations 25
Oliver Twist: Outlaws and In-Laws 25
Bleak House 46
Jarndyce and Jarndyce 50
Great Expectations 54
2 Holmes at Home 67
Reviewing the Situation: Holmes and Fagin 67
Stately Homes 71
Holmes at Home 82
3 Family and Form in Ulysses 101
The Foundling Plots of Ulysses 101
The Marriage Plots of Ulysses 126
4 Proust's Farewell to the Family 157
Swann and the Bond with the Stranger 169
The Race of Aunts 179
What People are Saying About This
McCrea makes an important argument about the novel that has not been made before, namely, that the form, rather than the content, of the modern novel bodies forth new, non-genealogical family structures. To read it is to experience literary criticism at its very best. McCrea's discussions give one a sense of having reread an author with new sensitivity and depth; they immerse the reader in McCrea's rich, energetic prose. This is an exceptionally mature, original work.