The Bourgeois: Between History and Literature

Franco Moretti. Verso (Norton, dist.), $29.95 (224p) ISBN 978-1-78168-085-8
First named in the 11th century, the bourgeois class established a dominant presence in world literature starting in the 1700s, as this brief but incisive critical study indicates. Starting with Robinson Crusoe, Moretti shows how conservative middle-class values and their incarnation in character types began to appear in fiction and poetry, shaping the structure of narrative. Crusoe, a model of human industry and the nascent capitalist spirit, sees his island world only in terms of what is “useful” to his endeavors. Moretti dissects Defoe’s grammar and syntax, finding it consistent with the efficiency of Crusoe’s character: “Defoe’s sentences take the successful ending of an action... and turn it into the premise for another action.” Looking to Pride and Prejudice, Middlemarch, Madame Bovary, and other 19th-century classics, Moretti sees novels dominated by “fillers”—details of daily life that convey a sense of “regularity”—and descriptions that are increasingly “analytical, impersonal, perhaps even ‘impartial.’ ” Moretti buttresses his argument with observations from Weber, Lukács, Gramsci, and other theorists, and extends his study to the novels of Machado, Gáldos, Prus, and others. Moretti persuasively demonstrates that his interpretations can be applied broadly to the vast body of 18th- and 19th-century literature. (June)
Reviewed on: 05/06/2013
Release date: 06/01/2013
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Open Ebook - 134 pages - 978-1-78168-305-7
Paperback - 203 pages - 978-1-78168-304-0
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