How Novels Think The Limits of Individualism From 1719-1900

ISBN-10: 0231130597

ISBN-13: 9780231130592

Edition: 2006

Authors: Nancy Armstrong
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Description: During the eighteenth century, novels by Daniel Defoe, Samuel Richardson, and Jane Austen offered their readers unforgettable, one-of-a-kind protagonists who appeared to overcome the limits of their social positions. This kind of individual did not reflect the authors and readers but endowed both with distinctively modern identities. In the decades following the revolutions in British North America and in France, novels began to question the fantasy of a self-made individual who could not rest until he or she arrived at a better social position. By the early nineteenth century, individualism had consequently become a problem in its own right. Instead of such plucky protagonists as Defoe's Robinson Crusoe and Moll Flanders, Richardson's Pamela Andrews, and Austen's Elizabeth Bennet, we find novels by Sir Walter Scott and Mary Shelley repackaging individualism in monstrous forms that threaten British society with collapse. Victorian novels by Emily Bront, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, and Thomas Hardy assumed that every man harbors an inner savage, just as every woman harbors an inner whore. The trick in becoming an individual was to transform competitive instinct and seductive power into acceptable forms of masculinity and femininity. The high mortality rate of Victorian heroines testifies to the difficulty of negotiating the passage from savage to civilized. While a novel like The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde gives up on the effort to contain these contradictory aspects of individualism within one body, Dracula carries the process of disintegration one step further by pitting the modern individual against a species capable of taking over individual desire itself.

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Book details

List price: $32.00
Copyright year: 2006
Publisher: Columbia University Press
Publication date: 1/11/2006
Binding: Paperback
Pages: 208
Size: 5.75" wide x 8.75" long x 0.50" tall
Weight: 0.726
Language: English

Nancy Armstrong is chair of the English department and Nancy Duke Lewis Professor of Comparative Literature, English, Modern Culture and Media, and Gender Studies at Brown University. She is the author of several books including, Fiction in the Age of Photography: The Legacy of British Realismand Desire and Domestic Fiction: A Political History of the Novel.

Acknowledgments
Introduction: How Novels Think
How the Misfit Became a Moral Protagonist
When Novels Made Nations
Why a Good Man Is Hard to Find in Victorian Fiction
The Polygenetic Imagination
The Necessary Gothic
Notes
Index
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