The Prose of Things: Transformations of Description in the Eighteenth Century

The Prose of Things: Transformations of Description in the Eighteenth Century

by Cynthia Sundberg Wall

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Virginia Woolf once commented that the central image in Robinson Crusoe is an object—a large earthenware pot. Woolf and other critics pointed out that early modern prose is full of things but bare of setting and description. Explaining how the empty, unvisualized spaces of such writings were transformed into the elaborate landscapes and richly upholstered interiors of the Victorian novel, Cynthia Sundberg Wall argues that the shift involved not just literary representation but an evolution in cultural perception.

In The Prose of Things, Wall analyzes literary works in the contexts of natural science, consumer culture, and philosophical change to show how and why the perception and representation of space in the eighteenth-century novel and other prose narratives became so textually visible. Wall examines maps, scientific publications, country house guides, and auction catalogs to highlight the thickening descriptions of domestic interiors. Considering the prose works of John Bunyan, Samuel Pepys, Aphra Behn, Daniel Defoe, Samuel Richardson, David Hume, Ann Radcliffe, and Sir Walter Scott, The Prose of Things is the first full account of the historic shift in the art of describing.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780226225029
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Publication date: 10/01/2014
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 288
File size: 8 MB

About the Author

Cynthia Sundberg Wall is professor of English at the University of Virginia.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
1. A History of Description, a Foundling
Some Definitions of Description
The Rhetorical History of Description
2. Traveling Spaces
Descriptions and Excavations: Stow to Strype
Traveled Spaces: Ogilby, Bunyan
3. Seeing Things
Subspace and Surfaces: Hooke, Boyle, Swift
Diaries and Descriptions: Pepys and Evelyn
Collections and Lists: The Philosophical Transactions, Swift, Pope
4. Writing Things
Emblems: The Pilgrim's Progress, Part II
Things (1): Defoe
Things (2): The Castle of Otranto
5. Implied Spaces
Spaces (1): Behn, Haywood, Aubin, Davys
Spaces (2): Pamela, Clarissa
6. Worlds of Goods
Worlds of Goods
Theories of Description
Shopping and Advertising
Auctions and Catalogs
7. Arranging Things
Furniture and Arrangements
Domestic Tours
8. The Foundling as Heir
The Gothic: Reeve and Radcliffe
Historical Novels: Scott
Historiography: Hume and Gibbon
Afterword: Humphry Repton

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