The Origins of the English Novel, 1600-1740 (Magill's Literary Annual 1988)
Essentially a study of genre history and development, Michael McKeon’s work reexamines a number of questions dealt with in Ian Watt’s seminal study, The Rise of the Novel: Studies in Defoe, Fielding, and Richardson (1957), a work which McKeon identifies as his point of departure. Both authors attempt to account for the novel’s emergence as a popular genre in early eighteenth century England. They both draw upon interdisciplinary approaches to explore questions that earlier literary historians had left unresolved. Both deal with romances and other genres that predated the novel and exerted an influence on its rise. They identify the economic, social, and political conflicts that contributed to the development of a new literary form. Both concentrate on major texts for analysis, with Samuel Richardson and Henry Fielding central to each study. While McKeon reveals additional specific debts and methodological resemblances to Watt, the essential similarities end at this point.
Between Watt’s time and the early 1980’s, critics learned to draw even more heavily on interdisciplinary approaches—anthropology, psychology, linguistics, and political science—than scholars in Watt’s time could have foreseen. Although Watt’s work employed an interdisciplinary approach to an extent unusual for its time, in part because the novel as a middle-class form of fiction invites exploration of allied fields, his reliance on other disciplines pales into...
(The entire section is 1976 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1988)
Choice. XXV, September, 1987, p. 126.
The Chronicle of Higher Education. XXXIII, April 1, 1987, p. 8.
Library Journal. CXII, April 15, 1987, p. 85.
London Review of Books. IX, October 1, 1987, p. 20.
The Times Literary Supplement. January 29-February 4, 1988, p. 116.
(The entire section is 31 words.)