Before Novels: The Cultural Contexts of Eighteenth-Century English Fiction

J. Paul Hunter, Author W. W. Norton & Company $25 (421p) ISBN 978-0-393-02801-0
Shimmering with vitality, this widely researched work gives the pendulum of critical opinion a powerful thrust in its movement away from New Criticism as it emphasizes contexts over texts. Assuming that the critic's chief task lies with an age's ``likes and the patterns they make,'' Hunter, a professor at the University of Chicago, here examines the rich and eclectic heritage of the early English novel. He shows how major writers and those long forgotten reflected and molded the tastes and values of their times; how the literature of the pulpit and the street, of the biographer and the autobiographer, of the historian and the romancer all impinged upon the consciousness of the men and women who wrote novels. Most interesting, perhaps, is the discussion of the complex cultural factors behind the transformation of ``Once upon a time . . . '' to ``I was born . . .'' The book is a mine of liberating insights for those who enjoy the likes of Richardson, Fielding and Smollett. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 08/01/1990
Release date: 08/01/1990
Paperback - 448 pages - 978-0-393-30861-7
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