The nostalgia for novelty: Revivals of the eighteenth century novel, genuine and spurious

2004 2004

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Abstract (summary)

Revivals of the eighteenth century novel and revivals of material culture are closely related. Whether one is mourning the lost bagel of the past or the lost novel, a complex form of nostalgia is at work. Historians of the novel Ian Watt, Michael McKeon, J. Paul Hunter, Lennard Davis, and many others are participants in the continuous re-invention of an invented tradition. Similarly, a number of novelists, reviving a great deal of eighteenth century discourse on genre, historiography, and aesthetics, partake of a nostalgia for novelty, a lost time when the European novel might truly have been novel. While these invented histories both need and oppose each other, neither are historical. The twin ideologies are revivals of a complex set of ambivalent metaphors and narratives that were parables of loss, regret, and repetition in their original form. The nostalgic fatalism of the past is recycled into the fatalism of the present, transforming that fatalism into a form of optimism. I trace the journey of this metaphor through Pierre Marivaux's Pharsamon , Henry Fielding's Tom Jones, Laurence Sterne's Tristram Shandy, and Denis Diderot's Salon de 1765 and Jacques le fataliste. Simultaneously, I discuss its revival in Thomas Pynchon's Mason and Dixon, Susan Sontag's The Volcano Lover, Robert Glück's Jack the Modernist , Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children, and Milan Kundera's Les testaments trahis. I employ both folklore studies—Neil Rosenberg's Transforming Tradition and Richard Handler and Jocelyn Linnekin's “Tradition: Genuine or Spurious”—and the genre theory of Gerard Genette, Philippe Lacoue-Labarth, and Jacques Derrida to extend discussions of nostalgia in Susan Stewart's Crimes of Writing and Svetlana Boym's The Future of Nostalgia. Finally, I suggest that many traditional debates and distinctions—novel and romance, realism and self-consciousness—are spurious rather than genuine.

Indexing (details)

Comparative literature;
British and Irish literature;
0295: Comparative literature
0593: British and Irish literature
0358: Folklore
Identifier / keyword
Social sciences; Language, literature and linguistics; Eighteenth century; Genre; Novel; Postmodern; Revivals
The nostalgia for novelty: Revivals of the eighteenth century novel, genuine and spurious
Sadow, Jonathan B.
Number of pages
Publication year
Degree date
School code
DAI-A 65/11, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
9780496132959, 0496132954
Moebius, C. William
University of Massachusetts Amherst
University location
United States -- Massachusetts
Source type
Dissertations & Theses
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL
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