The Other Rise of the Novel in Eighteenth-Century French Fiction

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9781611495812: The Other Rise of the Novel in Eighteenth-Century French Fiction
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The rise of the novel paradigm—and the underlying homology between the rise of a bourgeois middle class and the coming of age of a new literary genre—continues to influence the way we analyze economic discourse in the eighteenth-century French novel. Characters are often seen as portraying bourgeois values, even when historiographical evidence points to the virtual absence of a self-conscious and coherent bourgeoisie in France in the early modern period. Likewise, the fact that the nobility was a dynamic and diverse group whose members had learned to think in individualistic and meritocratic terms as a result of courtly politics is often ignored. The Other Rise of the Novel calls for a radical revision of how realism, the language of self-interest and commercial exchanges, and idealized noble values interact in the early modern novel. It focuses on two novels from the seventeenth century, Furetière’s Roman bourgeois and Lafayette’s Princesse de Clèves and four novels from the eighteenth century, Prévost’s Manon Lescaut, Graffigny’s Lettres d’une Péruvienne, Rousseau’s La Nouvelle Héloïse and Sade’s Les infortunes de la vertu. It argues that eighteenth-century French fiction does not reflect material culture mimetically and that character action is best analyzed by focusing on the social and discursive exchanges staged by the text, rather than by trying to create parallels between specific behavior and actual historical changes. The novel produces its own reality by transforming characters and their stories into alternative social models, different articulations of how individuals should define their economic relations to others. The representation of interpersonal relations often highlights personal conceptions of private interest that cannot be easily reconciled with the traditional narrative of a transition towards economic modernity. Realism, then, is not only about verisimilar storytelling and psychological depth: it is an epistemological questioning about the type of access to reality that a particular genre can give its readers.

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About the Author:

Olivier Delers is associate professor of French at the University of Richmond

Review:

Delers positions his account of the rise of the modern novel as an alternative to the account of Ian Watt and other social theorists for whom, as Delers writes in the introduction, 'the novel is the literary vehicle best equipped to convey through its characters and storylines the perfect rationality of homo economicus.' Looking at six French novels of the 17th and 18th centuries (Le Roman bourgeois, La Princesse de Clèves, Manon Lescaut, Julie, Lettres d’une Péruvienne, and Justine), the author argues that rather than map the progress of modern economic transactions in the 'real' world, the novels portray characters who develop alternative economies that are increasingly unrealistic—idiosyncratic, utopian, or dystopian. Initiated largely by female characters, these alternative economies seek to create a social structure in which an authentic sense of self can be reclaimed. Delers supports his analysis by using what he calls literary anthropology, a methodology that draws from historiography, economic sociology, science studies, and literary theory, yet remains grounded in a close reading of the economic behavior of the main characters of the novels. This is not a definitive history of the realistic novel, nor does Delers purport it to be. Summing Up: Recommended. Graduate students, researchers, faculty. (CHOICE)

Delers’s study provides...a welcome and original counterpoint to the now-dated correlation between the rise of the novel and of the bourgeoisie. (French Review)

The Other Rise of the Novel offers innovative interpretations of some classic eighteenth-century French novels. Its merit is to foreground as essential features the alternative economies or spaces represented in these texts, thereby restoring a distinct novelistic tradition to its proper place. (Eighteenth-Century Fiction)

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Book Description University of Delaware Press, United States, 2015. Hardback. Condition: New. Language: English. Brand new Book. The rise of the novel paradigm-and the underlying homology between the rise of a bourgeois middle class and the coming of age of a new literary genre-continues to influence the way we analyze economic discourse in the eighteenth-century French novel. Characters are often seen as portraying bourgeois values, even when historiographical evidence points to the virtual absence of a self-conscious and coherent bourgeoisie in France in the early modern period. Likewise, the fact that the nobility was a dynamic and diverse group whose members had learned to think in individualistic and meritocratic terms as a result of courtly politics is often ignored. The Other Rise of the Novel calls for a radical revision of how realism, the language of self-interest and commercial exchanges, and idealized noble values interact in the early modern novel. It focuses on two novels from the seventeenth century, Furetiere's Roman bourgeois and Lafayette's Princesse de Cleves and four novels from the eighteenth century, Prevost's Manon Lescaut, Graffigny's Lettres d'une Peruvienne, Rousseau's La Nouvelle Heloise and Sade's Les infortunes de la vertu. It argues that eighteenth-century French fiction does not reflect material culture mimetically and that character action is best analyzed by focusing on the social and discursive exchanges staged by the text, rather than by trying to create parallels between specific behavior and actual historical changes. The novel produces its own reality by transforming characters and their stories into alternative social models, different articulations of how individuals should define their economic relations to others. The representation of interpersonal relations often highlights personal conceptions of private interest that cannot be easily reconciled with the traditional narrative of a transition towards economic modernity. Realism, then, is not only about verisimilar storytelling and psychological depth: it is an epistemological questioning about the type of access to reality that a particular genre can give its readers. Seller Inventory # BTE9781611495812

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