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Fact, Fiction, and Form

Selected Essays

Ralph W. Rader, James Phelan, David H. Richter

Publication Year: 2011

Ralph W. Rader, along with Sheldon Sacks and Wayne Booth, was one of the three leading figures of the second generation of neo-Aristotelian critics. During his long career in the English Department at the University of California, Berkeley, Rader published scores of essays. Fact, Fiction, and Form: Selected Essays, edited by James Phelan and David H. Richter, collects the most important of these essays, all of them written between the late 1960s and the late 1990s. These critical inquiries, which engage with a remarkable range of literary texts—Moll Flanders, Pamela, Tristram Shandy, “Tintern Abbey,” “My Last Duchess,” Barchester Towers, Lord Jim, Ulysses, and more—are a rich resource for anyone interested in criticism’s ongoing conversations about the following major issues: the concept of form, the genres of the lyric and the novel, the literary dimensions of literary history, the distinction between fiction and nonfiction, the evaluation of literary quality, and the testing of theories and of interpretations. Moreover, the essays collectively develop a distinctive, coherent, and compelling vision of literary form, purpose, and value. Rader’s vision is distinctive and coherent because it is based not on an underlying theory of language, power, history, or culture but rather on the idea that form is the means by which humans respond to fundamental aspects and conditions of their existence in the world. His vision is compelling because it includes a rigorous set of standards for adequate interpretation against which he invites his audience to measure his own readings.

Published by: The Ohio State University Press

Series: Theory and Interpretation of Narrative


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-7


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pp. 8-9

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-xii

...He earned his B.A. at Purdue University in 1952 and his Ph.D. at Indiana University in 1958. In 1956 he began teaching as an Instructor in the English Department at the University of California, Berkeley, the institution at which he spent the rest of his career. Rader advanced rapidly through the ranks, becoming assistant professor in 1958, associate professor in 1963, and professor in 1967 ...

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Introduction: The Literary Theoretical Contribution of Ralph W. Rader

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pp. 1-28

...Rader consistently located his work within the tradition of Chicago School criticism, and he just as consistently characterized that tradition as a minor movement in the history of twentieth-century criticism and theory. But from our perspective at the beginning of the second decade of the twenty-first century, Rader’s commendable modesty does not do ...

Part I

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1. Fact, Theory, and Literary Explanation

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pp. 31-57

...modern critic works inductively, focusing on the local facts of the text and seeking to build up an interpretation which will accommodate their apparent complexities. When he does develop an interpretation which fits all the facts, he considers that the validity of the interpretation has been established. The problem is, however, that the same facts seem strangely...

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2. The Concept of Genre and Eighteenth-Century Studies

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pp. 58-81

...The subject of this essay is not genre in the prescriptive and conventional sense we associate with the eighteenth century itself, but rather a more fundamental conception of genre that I believe needs to be made the basis of any poetics capable of accounting for the realities of our literary experience. But since our common subject here is the future of eighteenth-century studies, ...

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3. Literary Permanence and Critical Change

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pp. 82-88

...Poets have always been wonderfully moving in their evocations of the pathos of the human condition, our longing for permanence in the midst of perpetual change. One thinks of Spenser asking his God to grant him the sight of that Sabbath when all shall rest eternally, or of Hopkins looking to ...

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4. Literary Constructs: Experience and Explanation

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pp. 89-106

...The overall aim of this essay is to show how a single theoretical perspective can articulate and collaterally explain and illuminate both the micro-facts, the pre-analytical shared invariants of our immediate tacit reading experience of literary works, and the macro-facts of our collective experience. The most crucially significant of these macro-facts are the patterns of ...

Part II

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5. Literary Form in Factual Narrative: The Example of Boswell’s Johnson

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pp. 109-133

...Although factual narrative, that is to say, history and biography, is certainly an art, only a few biographies and histories are unequivocally literature. This paradox deserves explanation and will in fact provide the whole subject of my remarks in this chapter. While much biography and history has a clear if relatively low place in literature, only Boswell and Gibbon in English ...

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6. The Dramatic Monologue and Related Lyric Forms

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pp. 134-154

...The most distinctive and highly valued poems of the modern era offer an image of a dramatized “I” acting in a concrete setting. The variety and importance of the poems which fall under this description are suggested simply by the mention of such names as “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard,” “Tintern Abbey,” “Ode to a Nightingale,” “Ulysses,” “My Last ...

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7. Notes on Some Structural Varieties and Variations in Dramatic “I” Poems and Their Theoretical Implications

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pp. 155-171

...This essay is intended as a sequel to, and refinement of, an earlier attempt to question some of the prevailing assumptions about the ways in which readers experience the “I” in monodramatic poems, particularly the notion that this “I” is uniformly given as an autonomous speaker who stands free of any determinate relation either to the creating poet or the world outside...

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8.Defoe, Richardson, Joyce, and the Concept of Form in the Novel

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pp. 172-200

...We experience literary works as inherently meaningful and beautiful. This not very challenging statement raises a troubling question: if literary works do in fact have an inherent structure of meaning and value which is the ground of our response to them, how is it possible for us to disagree and even flatly contradict one another as we do in our conceptions of what their...

Part III

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9. The Emergence of the Novel in England: Genre in History vs. History of Genre

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pp. 203-217

...At the outset of his monumental and much-praised account of the origins of the English novel, Michael McKeon asserts that “genre theory cannot be divorced from the history of genres, from the understanding of genres in history” (Origins 1). But the understanding of genres in history is a very different thing from the history of genres (as I shall argue), and the...

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10. From Richardson to Austen: “Johnson’s Rule” and The Development of the Eighteenth‑Century Novel of Moral Action

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pp. 218-233

...approach in part derives—I refer specifically to the work of R. S. Crane and Sheldon Sacks—has tended to identify the novel with the action structure first described by Aristotle and long employed in the drama before its appearance in Pamela and, subsequently, in Richardson’s later novels and those of Fielding, Burney, and Austen. Since I shall be referring to the action ...

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11.Tom Jones: The Form in History

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pp. 234-257

...In his “Reply to David Richter: Ideology and Form in Fielding’s Tom Jones,” John Richetti follows Terry Eagleton (and Clifford Geertz) in offering a “rehabilitated” concept of ideology as “no longer just the pernicious and conspiratorial legitimating strategies of the dominant class but rather . . . ‘a realm of contestation and negotiation’”; “not only as a legitimating ...

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12. “Big with Jest”: The Bastardy of Tristram Shandy

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pp. 258-267

...was begot in the night,” says Tristram Shandy, “betwixt the first Sunday and the first Monday in the month of March, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighteen. I am positive I was” (8). And a page later on: “On the fifth day of November, 1718, which to the æra fixed on, was as near nine kalendar months as any husband could in reason have expected,—was ...

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13. The Comparative Anatomy of Three “Baggy Monsters”: Bleak House, Vanity Fair, Middlemarch

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pp. 268-290

...In the context where James speaks of the “large loose baggy monsters” of fiction, he is referring specifically to Thackeray’s The Newcomes, as well as to The Three Musketeers and War and Peace (Preface to The Tragic Muse,in Art of the Novel 84). But as his separate review of Middlemarchmakes clear, James would have been willing enough to include in the category the three great ...

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14. Barchester Towers: A Fourth Baggy Monster

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pp. 291-302

...If Barchester Towersis to be understood as a differentiated member of the group defined in my “baggy monster” essay, it must be conceived as an action novel which embodies a transindividual social significance which is in tension with the action structure considered as the strictly integral structure of an effect. The grounds of such a structural conception of the book are ...

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15. Lord Jiand the Formal Development of the English Novel

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pp. 303-317

...After so many fresh interpretations in the recent past by major critics, any new interpretation of Lord Jim needs justification. The justification of the present account is that it is part of a larger attempt to make sense of the overall development of the English novel as an emergence engendered in its successive stages by the intentional constructive efforts of innovating novelistic ...

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16. Exodus and Return: Joyce’s Ulysses and the Fiction of the Actual

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pp. 318-339

...Every first-time reader registers the quality which makes Ulysses different from earlier novels (except Portrait) in a way in which no earlier novel is different from another. The felt quality of difference arises from the fundamentally new formal principle upon which Ulysses and its sister novel are constructed. Earlier novels of plotted suspense develop, within an illusion of ...

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17. The Logic of Ulysses, or Why Molly Had to Live in Gibraltar

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pp. 340-350

...Sixty years after its publication Ulysses stands unchallenged as the greatest literary work in English of the twentieth century; yet despite the richly fruitful efforts of many able commentators, the book remains stubbornly enigmatic and deeply resistant to conceptualization as a coherent whole. Critics seriously in search of unifying meaning have often concluded that the...

Works Cited

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pp. 351-360


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pp. 361-373

E-ISBN-13: 9780814270660
E-ISBN-10: 0814270662
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814251805
Print-ISBN-10: 0814251803

Page Count: 432
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: Theory and Interpretation of Narrative