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249 Reviews The Novel of Purpose: Literature and Social Reform in the Anglo-American World by Amanda Claybaugh; pp. 246. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 2007. $45.00 cloth. This book offers a compelling perspective on the history of reform, the history of literary realism, and the history of that somewhat vague entity called “Anglo-America.” In wonderfully clear prose, Amanda Claybaugh has much to say not only about each of these historical developments but also, crucially, about their proximate and in some cases mutually constitutive relationships . Nineteenth-century reform was clearlyAnglo-American in scope, as Frank Thistlethwaite (TheAnglo-American Connection) argued long ago. Reformers in the United States and Great Britain worked jointly against slavery and for temperance , women’s rights, the humane treatment of animals, and international peace. Claybaugh goes beyond merely elaborating these connections to offer a theory of a“new transatlanticism”—one rooted in material connections as well as imagined literary relations—that is both nuanced and dynamic. By focusing on the interconnections between two networks—that of social reform and of the literary marketplace—she demonstrates the multiple and shifting relations that marked British andAmerican interaction, from cultural authority to mutual influence to friendly competition. Underlying all manner of interactions, she argues, is the fact that “the United States and Great Britain formed as nations in a transnational context. Each, that is to say, came to conceive of itself as a nation with, through, and against the other” (16). Reform depended on print, as it was through stories, fables, and narratives that reformers sought to shape the attitudes and consciousness of their readers. If theAnglo-American literary marketplace produced what Claybaugh calls a“literature in English,” its archetypal form was the“novel of purpose,” a genre that embodied the nineteenth-century reformist faith“that transforming readers was a necessary first step in transforming the world” (34). Claybaugh further demonstrates how Anglo-American literary“realism” (different from its continental cousin) grew up with the novel of purpose, as both made use of the same subject matter and employed many of the same narrative strategies and techniques. The nineteenth-century Anglo-American novel became so well integrated with reform, Claybaugh argues, that even non-reformers worked within the genre to some extent. Attentive to this phenomenon, Claybaugh therefore includes compelling discussions of writers who had a change of heart about transatlantic reform (Charles Dickens), distanced themselves from reform (George Eliot and Henry James), and even subtly mocked reform (MarkTwain), as well as chapters on novelists devoted to temperance and the“woman question .” To this reader, the chapter on Twain (brilliantly subtitled “Reformers and Other Con Artists”) is worth the price of the book alone. The book concludes with a thoughtful discussion of how the novel of pur- victorian review • Volume 34 Number 2 250 pose lost its power in both literary and reformist terms.The story here is not simply the emergence of a new, more self-consciously theoretical“realism” that improved upon the verisimilitude of the earlier novelists. It has also to do with the shifting meaning of“Anglo-America,” from a“willed affiliation” based on a shared set of reformist commitments and sustained by ties of trade, politics, and intermarriage to an often racialized (“Anglo-Saxon”) alliance rooted in imperial conquest. Claybaugh’s reading ofTwain’s own complex musings on imperialism, civilization, and violence provides a fascinating coda. Claybaugh convincingly demonstrates the coherence of an expansiveAngloAmerican literary marketplace and reform network in which, cultural nationalist squabbling aside, a“literature in English” thrived, but her work seems less clear on how national differences mattered. Such questions may be beyond the scope of her study, but her fresh and skilful handling of the material here suggests she would have interesting observations to make on the topic. The Novel of Purpose is a most welcome addition to nineteenth-century studies and should appeal to historians and literary scholars alike. Leslie Bu tler Dartmouth College • Sex,Lies and Autobiography:The Ethics of Confession by James O’Rourke; pp. xiv + 215. Charlottesville and London: University of Virginia Press, 2006. $35.00 cloth. In Sex, Lies andAutobiography, literary texts function as unique sites of ambiguity and contradiction.Within these indeterminate spaces, O’Rourke...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1923-3280
Print ISSN
0848-1512
Pages
pp. 249-250
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-07
Open Access
No
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