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726 KAREN R. BLOOM Having read J.R. Watson's distinguished book carefully, I fear that ever since 1719, when Psalms of David, Imitated in the Language of the New Testament was published, the sacred texts of Judaism, and of Christianity, have been read through the distorted lens of Isaac Watts. Thus have been set out before my eyes many of the trubblesome motions wherewith womennes mllldes are woont to be turmoyled. Institutions of the English Novel's Canon KAREN R. BLOOM Homer Obed Brown. Institutions ofthe English Novel: From Defoe to Scott Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press 1997ยท 2.28. us $39.95 In Institutions of the English Novet Homer Obed Brown throws his hat into the increasingly crowded ring of scholars vying to explain the origins of the English novel. Eschewing the most popular method of late - identifying a discourse that has influenced the novel - Institutions of the English Novel makes the case for a reevaluation of the eighteenth-centUlY novel on the basis of its definition. Brown asserts that scholars should understand the development of the novel as a project of hindsight, as the work of nineteenth- and twentieth-century critics. According to this conception of the novel's origins, the eighteenth-century narratives later grouped as novels were in fact'diverse, inchoate, singular acts of institution that could only much later be seen and instituted collectively as a more or less integral "genre.' The novel did not'rise' or'originate' or'develop,' but was 'instituted' by a nineteenth-century nationalist critical movement primarily featuring Sir Walter Scott. According to the'general thesis,' 'whatwe now call"the n"ovel" didn't appear visibly as a recognized single II genre" until the early nineteenth century, when the essentially heterogeneous fictional prose narratives of the preceding century were grouped together institutionally under that name.' In this view, the novel is a nineteenth-century concept imposed on eighteenth-century texts, not an eighteenthcentury invention at all. Brown makes his case essentially by examining traditionally canonical novels to identify characteristics that came to define what it is to be a novel. These are exemplary tales of individual aspects of the novel, each the specialty of a different author, which were used to canonize those authors' texts and to define the genre, that is, to create the 'institution' that was labelled 'the novel.' In 'The Errant Letter and the Whispering Gallery,' for example, Brown uses Clarissa and Pamela to demonstrate that the genre relies on gossip and letters, and how that reliance signifies an awareness of audience and perhaps of transgression. The 'displaced or purloined letter and gossip, as well as the relationship between them, are more than ubiquitous plot devices in novels,' Brown explains; 'this is one way that novels emblematize their own nature as fictional texts.' Self-consciousness about context and history in the fashioning ofnarrative characterizes the novel according to 'Tom INSTITUTIONS OF THE ENGLISH NOVEL'S CANON 727 Jones: The "Bastard" of History,' and 'The Displaced Self in the Novels of Daniel Defoe' suggests ways in which the novel explores the impossibility of defining a self through textual representation. Brown also examines Laurence Sterne's Tn'stram Shandy, whose narrative and formal quest for origins expresses and resolves the genre's same quest, and Sir Walter Scott's Waverley novels (Waverley, Rob Roy, and Redgauntlet).ln his last single-author chapter, 'Sir Walter Scott and the Institution of History,' Brown argues that Scott's novels and criticism are the point at which 'the English novel' becomes institutionalized, in part by integrating the novelistic characteristics identified in previous chapters, such as the awareness of the novel's fictionality through the use of correspondence and gossip, a rewriting of history to explore the nature of fiction and current political events, and so on. These chapters are fascinating readings of these texts, in no small part because they are meticulously attentive to language. That deep concern with the words themselves is certainly one of the most elegant and enjoyable aspects of Institutions of the English Novel. The fourth chapter, on Tristram Shandy, displays particularly intricate manoeuvring in thematically and formally connecting Trim's discovered sermon with the Epistle to the Hebrews...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 726-729
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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