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Openings: Narrative Beginnings from the Epic to the Novel

Openings: Narrative Beginnings from the Epic to the Novel

Hardback

By (author) Late A. D. Nuttall

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  • Publisher: Clarendon Press
  • Format: Hardback | 266 pages
  • Dimensions: 145mm x 216mm x 28mm | 454g
  • Publication date: 1 April 1997
  • Publication City/Country: Oxford
  • ISBN 10: 0198117418
  • ISBN 13: 9780198117414
  • Edition statement: New.
  • Illustrations note: index

Product description

What is the difference between a natural beginning and the beginning of a story? Some deny that there are any beginnings in nature, except perhaps for the origin of the universe itself, suggesting that elsewhere we have only a continuum of events, into which beginnings are variously 'read' by different societies. This book argues that history is full of real beginnings but that poets and novelists are indeed free to begin their stories wherever they like. The ancient poet Homer laid down a rule for his successors when he began his epic by plunging in medias res, 'into the midst of things'. Later writers, however, persistently play off the 'interventionist', in medias res opening against some sense of a 'deep', natural beginning: Genesis or the birth of a child. The author also outlines how the inspiring Muse of epic gives way to the poet's ego, dies, revives and dies again. Ranging from Greek and Roman epic to the modern novel via Dante, Milton, Wordsworth, Sterne and Dickens, A. D. Nuttall has written an ambitious and original book which will be of interest to a wide variety of readers.

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Review quote

'This is a subtle account of the relationship between art and ontology. Its gusto, if not always free from self-indulgence, exerts a continuous grip on the reader's attention.' A Journal of English Language and Literature, Vol 74, No 6 (Dec 1993) 'A. D. Nuttall is among the most erudite of contemporary academic literary critics, at ease with the Classics, much given to philosophy. This, then, is a brilliant book ... there is a dazzling digressiveness and expansiveness, lucubrations of a find critical mind on a subject only apparently rather minute. ... he has developed formidable machinery and uses it with gusto and learning.' Frank Kermode, London Review of Books 'While it delights in its display of academic erudition, Nuttall's book advances an essentially simple idea, still stimulating after being explored by cultural historians of the calibre of E. H. Gombrich. Nuttall's discourse will not end the debate on the nature of narrative but is certain to open spirited arguments.' Times Higher Education Supplement 'brilliant book' London Review of Books Nuttall makes useful incidental points about each text he discusses. Modern Language Review

Back cover copy

What is the difference between a natural beginning and the beginning of a story? Some deny that there are any beginnings in nature, except perhaps for the origin of the universe itself, suggesting that elsewhere we have only a continuum of events, into which beginnings are variously 'read' by different societies. This book argues that history is full of real beginnings but that poets and novelists are indeed free to begin their stories wherever they like. The ancient poet Homer laid down a rule for his successors when he began his epic by plunging in medias res, 'into the midst of things'. The inspiring Muse of epic gives way to the poet's ego, dies, revives and dies again. Later writers, however, persistently play off the 'interventionist', in medias res opening against some sense of a 'deep', natural beginning: Genesis or the birth of a child. Ranging from Greek and Roman epic to the modern novel via Dante, Milton, Wordsworth, Sterne, and Dickens, A. D. Nuttall has written an ambitious and original book which will be of interest to a wide variety of readers.

Table of contents

Part 1 The beginning of the "Aeneid": the voice of the Muse and the voice of the poet; polysemous epic; the beginning of the story. Part 2 The "Commedia": intervention - poetic and divine; Dante and Virgil; Chaucer and the "overheard opening". Part 3 "Paradise Lost": Renaissance ego and the rebirth of the Muse; Genesis and the beginning of "Paradise Lost". Part 4 "The Prelude": the retroactive poem; the Muse and the dead self. Part 5 "Tristram Shandy": telling versus explaining; comedy as bodily critique. Part 6 David and Pip: the discarded face; modes of self-reference. Part 7 The sense of a beginning: the idea of a natural beginning; finding the Muse.