ENL 6236 – Eighteenth-Century Novel and Theory                                        Dr. Runge

 

 

2/13                 Warner, Licensing Entertainment (entire)

 

                        Suggested:  Online version: S. Johnson's Rambler #4 and PDF file (Blackboard, course documents) from Reeve's Progress of Romance

 

 

This week we discuss our third book of novel theory.  Warner's work aims to reconceive the history of the novel entirely: does he succeed?  How does his concept of "media culture" minimize or obviate the problems raised in our discussions of Watt and McKeon?

 

Since the second half of the book focuses on Defoe, Richardson and Fielding, and since we will be discussing both Pamela and Joseph Andrews later in the semester, you can read these sections with an eye toward the future.  We won’t be able to evaluate them very well until later, but you should retain the notes and questions until then.  I suspect we will spend most of our class time discussing the first half of the book and the conclusion.

 

 

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I.                    Preface

 

Warner claims that this theory of the novel will go "outside the boundaries of literary studies, so as to study an other-than-literary scene of cultural production and consumption" (xi).  How does this differ from the methods of Watt or McKeon? Don't they all go beyond strictly literary studies?  How does Warner's plan differ?

 

Rather than discard Watt, McKeon, and others who have gone before him, Warner aims to recycle old literary history: "Not a spontaneous event, the rise or elevation of the novel should be seen as a project directed not at instituting a new type of literature ("the" novel), but instead at a reform of reading practices" (xiii).

What is the difference between "rise" and "elevation" in the story of the origins of the English novel?

 

Note that this new argument is reiterated as one of the central themes of the book: cf. "First cultural critics sketched the first profile of the culture-destroying pleasure seeker that haunts the modern era:  that of the obsessive, unrestrained consumer of fantasy (see chapters 3-4).  Following this, such novelists as Richardson and Fielding, assuming the cogency of this critique, developed replacement fictions as a cure for the novel-addicted reader (see chapters 5-6).  In doing so, they aimed to deflect and reform, improve and justify novelistic entertainment" (6).

Evaluate this in light of your reading.

 

How does Warner respond to potential criticism of his theory, that Richardson and Fielding are still the central players and that women writers (Behn, Manley, Haywood) continue to be marginal, precursors to the novel? (see xiv).

 

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II.                 Chapter I.  The Rise of the Novel in the Eye of Literary History

 

How would you describe the "grand narrative" of British literary studies that relates the progress of the novel?  How does Warner criticize it?

 

This chapter is built around the three assumptions that Watt takes for granted about the novel in 1957:  the novel is a legitimate aesthetic entity; it is characterized by realism, and it begins with Defoe, Richardson and Fielding who exemplify the British tradition.  What is the history of these assumptions?

 

In "The Scandal of Novel Reading" Warner cites Hortensius from Reeve's Progress of Romance (page 5).  What are Hortensius' criticisms of the novel and how do these characterize the anti-novel discourse?

 

Describe the characteristics of the anti-novel debate: include the subjects of educating youth, history and Richardson versus Fielding.

 

Warner claims that "what results in the works of both Reeve and Dunlop, as in every subsequent literary history, is a chronological panorama of culture in which selected cultural practices and productions are narrated as significant and valuable.  By this means, literary history licenses (selected) entertainments by sublimating them" (16).  What does this mean?  How might we evaluate Watt (or the others) in this light?  What emerges as significant and valuable in each?

 

Who are the main players in the close of the debate about novels?  What roles do they play?

 

Warner asserts that realism is an unattainable aesthetic goal.  The "credo" about realism is that "it is possible to develop systems of representing what exists that have an autonomy, self-evidence, and presence to the spectator analogous to that ascribed to life itself; in other words, that it is possible to have representation that is free from rhetoric" (34).  With that understood, there are several axioms that 18th-century readers understood in reference to claims for realism.  Evaluate Warner's argument about centrality of realism as it comes to be established in literary history.  How does this compare with McKeon's sophisticated matrix of questions of truth?

 

Bringing the three themes together: "In order for the novel's moral effects to be taken seriously, it has to represent character truthfully; the idea that novels represent the social as a preconditions for its nationalization; and both improving and nationalizing readers enhance the novel's realistic claims.  These three aspects of the novel's institution become the minimal criteria for identifying novels and for distinguishing them from 'mere' fiction" (40).

Evaluate.

 

How does this argument help explain the marginal status of Behn, Manley and Haywood? (41)

 

Thesis: "This turbulent vortex of reciprocal appearance and disappearance is mis-seen as the origin of the novel.  But in order for the elevated novel to appear, the novel of amorous intrigue must be made to disappear into a gulf of oblivion.  This birth requires a murder and burial" (44). 

How useful is it to see the history of the "rise of the novel" as one of mis-seeing the truth?  What truth does Warner hope to recover here?

 

III.               Chapter 2: Licensed by the Market:  Behn's Love Letters as Serial entertainment

 

On page 45 Warner lists a series of questions regarding the unease around issues of entertainment, what he defines as social practices used to amuse members of a culture, usually involving representation.  How accurate a definition of entertainment is this?  How pertinent or useful are these questions?

 

Warner defines the novel minimally, obviously with strategic reasons for his own theory: "the novel is short in length (compared with romance), it is written in prose rather than poetry, it usually takes sex and/or love as its topic, and it quite frequently tells a story of contemporary life, rather than of some earlier, ancient or legendary era" (47).  Evaluate.  Compare with Johnson's definition discussed earlier.

 

Why does Warner reject the argument that Behn is the first English novelist? (49)

 

In "Serial Entertainment" Warner argues that part two of Love Letters is motivated purely by the success of part one.  He claims that Behn developed techniques for writing sequels, and so "helps to chart a path toward market-based print-media culture that others, such as Manley, Haywood, and Richardson would follow" (64).  "Each sequel" he claims" meets the reader's demand for comforting continuity and enticing variation" (65).  Evaluate the validity of these claims.

 

Evaluate Warner's claims about Sylvia as a prototypical protagonist of formula fiction, "who is a simple, self-promoting ego who pursues a complex career of intrigue and action in hopes of advancing his or her interest or pleasure" (86).  Richardson will do the opposite with Pamela and Clarissa "who, as ideal realizations of the modern author function, are responsible, consistent, self-conscious, and exemplary" (86).  Sylvia "appears less as a single character than as a sort of personification of the novel on the market" (86).

To what extent do you (can you) agree with these statements?  How useful are they?

 

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IV.       Chapter 3: Formulating Fiction for the General Reader (Manley and Haywood) (88).

 

The concept of "the general reader" is pivotal for Warner's arguments.  How does he define this "reader" (see page 89).  How is this like Hunter's description of novel readers?

 

Warner consistently rejects arguments that "gender" the novel of the early period, including Ros Ballaster's claims for Women's amatory fiction.  Why does he reject this?  What does he argue in its place?  What are the implications for this? (see 91-92).

 

He argues that the novels by Manley and Haywood contribute to feminism by teaching "readers – men as well as women – to articulate their desire and put the self first, through reading novels in which characters do so" (93).  What are the grounds for this argument?  How feminist is this?

 

Discuss how reading replaces or sublimates sexual desire in the close-readings of Manley and Haywood.  Is the argument convincing?  How does it relate to other novels of amorous intrigue we have read?

 

Manley, like Haywood, incorporates the anti-novel discourse as a way to deflect criticism – they "coopt a discourse that challenges the novel's right to circulate" (110). Why?  What is the effect of this cooptation?

 

Manley (like Haywood) moves away from politics in fiction to fiction for pure entertainment.  Warner sees this as evidence of a trend in 18th-century readership to "a more settled separation of politics and fiction, and a location of novel reading in a private sphere of reading enjoyment" (111).  What is the evidence for this change?  Are novels like Pamela less political?  How?

 

Evaluate Warner's list of compositional changes that Haywood makes to the formula fiction of her day (111-112). How innovative are these?  To what extent do they remain in the formula?

 

Evaluate the 8 features of formula fiction Warner identifies, vis-à-vis Haywood's Love in Excess (112-117).  To what extent can you identify these features in other works we have read?

 

Note: in feature #7 Warner claims "but even though these novels do not make higher claims to moral truth or beauty, ideological work is being done in even the most formulaic entertainment" (115).  How can this be?  What evidence do we have from the novels we have read?

 

"It is the sheer quantity of Haywood's production in this period, and the unprecedented popularity it enjoys, which helps give the bad name to novels throughout the century" (112).  What does this mean?  How can it be true?  Compare with Pope's depiction of Haywood in the Dunciad.

 

Warner claims that Haywood implicates "the reader in the general desire she ascribes to her characters" (119).  How convincing is his argument?  What other implications might there be?

 

Warner argues that there "is no evidence that the early modern print market was segmented by gender," and by postulating that Behn, Manley and Haywood appeal to the "general reader," he proves they are not marketed directly at women (121).  What does he mean by this argument?  Is it wrong-headed to see a fundamental orientation toward women in the writings by these women?  Why might the argument for a "general reader" be more valid?

 

He evaluates the discourse of the novel of amorous intrigue – the contagion metaphor and the vampire metaphor.  He suggests a third position: the media culture that Haywood and Manley propagate through their addresses to the general reader: "any member of an open set of readers who would purchase a book for entertainment" (125).  What is at stake in these alternative images for the early novel phenomenon?  How does Warner improve on the past images?

 

Warner closes the chapter with a strong statement on the synergistic feedback loop of print culture and print media that he defines as "media culture" (127).  Evaluate this concept.  Why is it important to the history or theory of the novel?  What does it add that has been missing?  How valid it is?

 

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The second half of Warner’s book focuses on Defoe, Richardson and Fielding as reformers of novel reading.  As you read, consider what role each plays this “elevation” of the novel, and how does this differ from the more canonical or “heroic” accounts in Watt and McKeon.  Also consider how founding critical documents like Johnson’s Rambler #4 and Reeve’s Progress of Romance aid in this elevation.

 

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IV.              The Antinovel Discourse and Rewriting Reading in Roxana

 

In Warner’s account of media culture, the need to know the “reader” impels market motives – “Within their mobile and transient co-articulation, reader and text dissolve into the act of reading, leaving no trace of what they have been to and for each other” (128).

Why is knowing the reader so important for the history of the novel?

 

Another important factor in the history of the genre is the material form of the book.  Warner offers an interesting and brief account of these changes (133).  Speculate on the relationship between the form and the genre as we have come to know it.  What is the significance of size?  What is the significance of cost?  How expensive would it be to purchase novels?  What is the difference between a folio and a duodecimo book?

 

As part of the antinovel discourse, Warner analyzes Shaftesbury and Pope.  What role do these authors play in the history of the novel?  Evaluate Warner’s reading of Haywood’s role in The Dunciad.  To what extent is it plausible that Pope enhances the cultural power of novels? (147)

 

Consider Robinson Crusoe as an example of Defoe’s novelistic strategies and evaluate Warner’s claims: “Most crucially for this study, Defoe’s development of the double-voiced memoir narrative enables him to make a particularly cogent intervention on the print market of his day. His narratives indulge what they censure, repeat what they proscribe” (151). 

 

In Roxana, Defoe makes Roxana the absorbed reader of her own story, according to Warner, “as well as narrator who subjects that character to analytical control through an act of writing.  By editing Roxana’s narrative, Defoe subjects the naïve absorbed reader to critique and reformation” (152)

Analyze the assumptions in this argument and the validity of these claims.  How does this compare with the reforming techniques of Richardson and Fielding?

 

Analyze the argument against marriage delineated on 158-9 and compare it with our discussion the early novels’ representation of marriage.

 

Warner claims that Susan threatens Roxana’s sense of control over her past and her future.  Compare Roxana’s reaction to Susan with Isabella’s double murder in The History of a Nun.  What are some of the implications?

 

V.                 The Pamela Media Event (176)

 

What does Warner mean by “media event” and in what ways can we say that Pamela constitutes one?

 

On page 184, Warner lists the characteristics of Aubin’s popular narratives: a) insistent doctrine of providential rewards; b) heroine’s purified of erotic desire; c) literal physical virginity becomes “indispensable criterion for virtue” for heroine.

 

To what extent are these characteristics present in the story of Count Vinevil? 

What is the relationship between Richardson and Penelope Aubin?

 

Note that Warner’s analysis takes the 1740 edition of Pamela as his text (pub. Houghton Mifflin).  How does this change the impact of the scene of the bulls, analyzed on page 189-90?  The keyhole scene on page 213?  Others?

 

What does Warner mean by his key concept of “overwriting”? 

 

Evaluate Warner’s alternative reading of the character most unlike Pamela (Fantomina) as an influence in the overwriting of the novel of amorous intrigue and the central role of the masquerade(194-196).

 

What is important about the “perversely plural effects of communication” and the “risk being misread” which Warner finds central to the Pamela media event?  

 

According to Warner’s arguments, how “new” is Richardson’s “new species of writing” (quoted 202)?  In what ways is Richardson a media worker?

 

Evaluate Warner’s claim that the Reader’s Guide (to Pamela) asserts a naivete and innocence of reading that is neither to be found in the novel nor the heroine, only attributed to her by the author and guide.  It aims to direct the reader against misreadings that are anticipated.

 

In what ways do Shamela, AntiPamela and others overwrite Pamela’s overwriting of novels of amorous intrigue?

 

How does Warner’s reading of Pamela answer age-old problems of reading Pamela as a hypocrite?  How much of this has to do with shifting the focus from the subject of the text to the subject of reading?

 

Examine Warner’s explanation for Richardson’s second half of Pamela (after her marriage) and the unintended reversal of these effects (225).

 

What is “antitheatricality”?  How does it play into Warner’s readings of Defoe, Richardson and Fielding? (Note: each one responds in a different way to issues of theatricality.)

 

Compare Richardson’s presentation of the author (the belated appearance of Richardson) with Fielding’s (entertainer, master puppeteer).  What are the implications for the reading of their novels?  How does this affect questions of truth (or realism)?

 

VI.              Joseph Andrews as Performative Entertainment (231)

 

Note:  since we will be reading Joseph Andrews later, much of the discussion of this section can be deferred until then.

 

Historicize the meaning of “entertainment.”  Why are eighteenth-century meanings for the term relevant to Warner’s argument?

 

 

How would you describe the relationship between novels of amorous intrigue and Joseph Andrews?  The same question should be answered for Roxana and for Pamela.

 

Warner analyzes Joseph Andrews as a mixed form of entertainment that appeals to popular taste but at the same time interweaves critical techniques for training the reader to read properly and to elevate the “species of writing” (through 245).  What are Fielding’s strategies for doing this?  How does Fielding’s awareness of his lack of authority over the radical freedom of the reader qualify his didactic design?

 

One of the significant departures in Warner’s criticism of Fielding is his insistence (contra Stephanson, Battestin and others) that Fielding respects the freedom of the reader and concedes his authority as an author to the critical mind of the reader (252, 259, elsewhere).  Remember this when we read and discuss the role of the narrator in Fielding’s work!

 

“In Joseph Andrews, Fielding accepts the pervasive inevitability of the theater and sets out to cure the naive absorption of Pamela’s reader by intensifying the theatricality of writing” (258).  According to Warner, how does he achieve this?  To what effect?

 

**** NOTE **** Plot spoiler on pages 275-6, when he discusses Fielding use of coincidence.  Since it is not extremely central to our discussion this week, you can skip this until later.

 

VII.            Conclusion

 

At the end, Warner proposes a thesis:  “It is often thought that popular fiction develops as a middle- or low-brow reaction to a pre-existent high culture.  My study of the history of the early novel in Britain suggests the reverse.  The very concept of the novel as a high literary form results from unease with the absorptive reading of the ‘low’ amorous novel develop within early print-media culture” (293).

 

Consider the thesis and evaluate Warner’s overall argument. 

 

What is the relationship among the novelists he discusses?

 

What is the “elevation” of novels and how is it accomplished?

 

To what extent do Warner’s theories and arguments improve your understanding of the history of the eighteenth-century novel?

 

Does Warner make good on his claim that 1) That he changes the terms of the history in which Richardson and Fielding continue to play a central role and 2) that the early women writers are formative players in the entertainment industry and 3) that none of the novelists is responsible for the origins of the modern subject?

 

Recall the “grand narrative” of the heroic rise of the English novel against which Warner situates his claims.  What does the history of the novel gain from this revision?  What does it lose?

 

In terms of women writers, what questions are solved?  What questions remain to be solved?