The Novel: An Alternative History, 1600-1800

The Novel: An Alternative History, 1600-1800

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Winner of the Christian Gauss Award for excellence in literary scholarship from the Phi Beta Kappa Society Having excavated the world's earliest novels in his previous book, literary historian Steven Moore explores in this sequel the remarkable flowering of the novel between the years 1600 and 1800-from Don Quixote to America's first big novel, an homage to Cervantes entitled Modern Chivalry. This is the period of such classic novels as Tom Jones, Candide, and Dangerous Liaisons, but beyond the dozen or so recognized classics there are hundreds of other interesting novels that appeared then, known only to specialists: Spanish picaresques, French heroic romances, massive Chinese novels, Japanese graphic novels, eccentric English novels, and the earliest American novels. These minor novels are not only interesting in their own right, but also provide the context needed to appreciate why the major novels were major breakthroughs. The novel experienced an explosive growth spurt during these centuries as novelists experimented with different forms and genres: epistolary novels, romances, Gothic thrillers, novels in verse, parodies, science fiction, episodic road trips, and family sagas, along with quirky, unclassifiable experiments in fiction that resemble contemporary, avant-garde works. As in his previous volume, Moore privileges the innovators and outriders, those who kept the novel novel. In the most comprehensive history of this period ever written, Moore examines over 400 novels from around the world in a lively style that is as entertaining as it is informative. Though written for a general audience, The Novel, An Alternative History also provides the scholarly apparatus required by the serious student of the period. This sequel, like its predecessor, is a "zestfully encyclopedic, avidly opinionated, and dazzlingly fresh history of the most 'elastic' of literary forms" (Booklist).

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  • Hardback | 1024 pages
  • 174 x 238 x 72mm | 1,719.97g
  • Continuum Publishing Corporation
  • New YorkUnited States
  • English
  • 144118869X
  • 9781441188694
  • 781,359

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Review quote

In this second volume of his ambitious study on the novel, Moore cheekily continues his deconstruction of classic works from the medium's most formative centuries... Mischievous humor and a range of contemporary references are often the sugar to Moore's dense analytical medicine: The 40-Year-Old Virgin comes up in the section on Don Quixote, Pat Benatar makes an appearance as well. Refusing to simply connect the dots between canonized works, Moore chooses instead to catalog the 'hundreds of little-known novels that not only provide context for [a] dozen or so classics, but are interesting in their own right.' It's this rigorous aim that gives the book velocity. This is a must-read for those interested in studying the novel's long evolution from less traditional angles. Publisher's Weekly [Moore] reads everything he can, and his prodigious appetite for forgotten fiction, together with his eye-popping struggle to get through it all, becomes an entertaining running theme throughout the book. [...] The advantages of Moore's broad scope are obvious and real. He writes with gusto and acumen, and even when he takes against an author or work, he does so with engaging verve. [...] There are countless illuminating retrievals in his Herculean chapters about fiction in France and Britain ... and the book is a trove of unexpected discoveries throughout. Moore is especially good at drawing out the literary and material self-consciousness of much early fiction. [...] Moore is right about the playful self-consciousness that suffuses so much pioneering fiction of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and his energetic study conveys the freshness of this fiction with wit and insight. -- Thomas Keymer TLS Critical insight is blended with summarized overviews of historical contexts and the plots of unfamiliar novels, thereby providing an accessible, comprehensive introduction for the general reader, as well as refreshing scholarly analysis for academic audiences. Moore's richly informative work traces the complex and contested debates as to what constitutes the first American novel ... [His] work-styled as an 'alternative' history-is written in a lively, conversational tone, combining both comedy and critical acumen. The Year's Work in English Studies [A]s one reads deeper in The Novel: An Alternative History, 1600-1800 there is the frankly terrible realization that English-only readers have missed out on so much worthwhile writing from two hundred creative years. A new line of (alternative) classics could be drawn from this book and its predecessor, replacing the tired wares seen repeatedly in stores, especially at Christmas...If there is one daring enough to present a truly panoramic set of works from Ancient Egypt to early nineteenth-century America, the logical choice as general editor is at hand. -- Jeff Bursey In the preceding first volume of his impossibly thorough and wilfully provocative overview, Moore argued convincingly for a revolutionary redefinition. Here, the scarily well-read Moore flexes even more of his astonishing critical muscle. -- Sergio De La Pava, author of A Naked Singularity Metro The immensity of Moore's accomplishment with this volume can't be understated: he packs 200 years of world literature into 1,000 pages.[...] Moore identifies the major examples of all the literary trends and genres for each language or region, then the inevitable sequels and imitators. The reader will have to keep a notebook handy in order to make a list of books to seek out as she moves through the text. [...] Moore's work is exhaustive, but never exhausting, and his writing is witty, engaging, and accessible; he never gets bogged down with academic snoozery, and makes welcome use of slang and humor to punctuate his major points. The result is that the reader becomes just as excited about Moore's project as Moore is, finding out about so many works, from novels you're already read, to ones you know you should have read, and to the hopelessly obscure. [...] There are great lines on every page. [...] The Novel: An Alternative History, 1600-1800 catalogs and reviews more books than most people will read in a lifetime, works of immense importance not only to the history of the genre, but to human cultural history as well. Moore's achievement is staggering. Rain Taxi A remarkable catalog of both traditional and 'experimental' novels from all around the world. -- Seth Satterlee, Publisher's Weekly PWxyz The Novel: An Alternative History 1600-1800, spans two centuries of the world's most popular literary form and introduces readers to an entirely new way of thinking about literature. [...] Moore derives true pleasure out of re-creating worlds that would otherwise seem unreachable to modern readers. He uses his knowledge of literature to develop layered landscapes of specific times in history and deftly gives us the context to understand why authors were writing the things they were writing. [...] If there is a flaw in The Novel: An Alternative History 1600-1800-if it can even be called a "flaw"-it's unintentional, since it sometimes makes you feel both inadequate and mildly existential (when will I have time to read all these great works?). Yet readers can feel that Moore has empathy with this problem, as he seems to have struggled trying to decide what to include and what to leave out, as well. His passion for literature and the joy he receives from preserving its history are felt in every single page of this work. Volume three can't come soon enough. -- Pop Matters Jose Solis Moore concentrates on the macro and explores the evolution of an amorphous artform using a constellation of lesser known works. -- Seth Satterlee, Publisher's Weekly Publisher's Weekly Moore offers a second volume in his personal revaluation of the novel as a global phenomenon (the first volume - CH, Dec'10, 48-1895 - covered the years from 'beginnings' to 1600). And a doorstopper of a book it is. The book's five chapters look at the European novel (books in Spanish, German, and Latin), the novel in French, the Eastern novel (Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Tibetan, Persian, and Indian works), the novel in English (by anyone in the British Isles who wrote novels in English), and the American novel (a spare 42 pages). Moore's tone is irreverent: he often takes traditionalists to task, pointing out prurient details of books in bald detail (Marquis de Sade gets more attention than Daniel Defoe). Moore is not a completist - his treatment of the pre-1800 English Gothic runs less than 20 pages, whereas Horror Literature: A Core Collection and Reference Guide, ed. By Marshall Tymn (CH, Jan'82), lists 300 titles that qualify for consideration. Moores' greates talent is dusting off obscure works, placing them in the context of standard classics, and locating the most entertaining parts of whatever he considers. Summing Up: Recommended. Lower- and upper-division graduates, with supervision; general readers. -- M. J. Emery, Cottey College CHOICE Mentioned Studies in English Literature Moore writes 'the deeper the reader plunges into Fanny Hill, the greater the returns' (p. 748). One suspects the same can be said of his massive endeavour The Novel: An Alternative History. The Year's Work in English Studies

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About Steven Moore

Steven Moore (Ph.D. Rutgers, 1988) is the author of several books and essays on modern literature. From 1988 to 1996 he was managing editor of the Review of Contemporary Fiction/Dalkey Archive Press, and for decades he has reviewed books for a variety of journals and newspapers, principally The Washington Post. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

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