restricted access The Origins of the English Novel, 1600–1740, 15th Anniversary Edition by Michael McKeon (review)
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179 has been covered, from Robinson Crusoe and Moll Flanders to La Religieuse and Les Liaisons Dangereuses. The book, useful for teachers and scholars of both film and literature, features a helpful Filmography, Bibliography, and Index (primarily of names), as well as nineteen black-and-white illustrations. Cynthia Wall’s insightful essay on the spaces of Clarissa illuminates ‘‘femininity as claustrophobia,’’ part of the gothic legacy of the eighteenth century. Her work finds an interesting companion piece in Margaret McCarthy’s essay on formative spatial relations in Wim Wenders ’s Wrong Move (a loose adaptation of Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister), and an instructive counter in Peter Cosgrove’s ‘‘The Cinema of Attractions and the Novel in Barry Lyndon and Tom Jones,’’ which attends to the ways film spectacle can distract from the narrative and become its own end. Among the more overtly political essays , Janet Sorensen’s analysis of Rob Roy offers timely exposure of the reactionary strategy of producing ‘‘white ethnicity ’’ in a nostalgic mode. In her view, the celebration of a mythical Celtic past in Michael Caton-Jones’s film serves to ‘‘represent white identity as fixed, essential , and under threat of attack.’’Thereare also contributions from feminist and postcolonial critics who regard the eighteenth century as the time when both modern domination and the political resistance to it came into being. What appears only dimly in this book is the Enlightenment. The contributors are largely taking their cue from the films themselves, which often seem to depict any eighteenth century but the Age of Reason. But the result is that not enough is made of the debt our own criticalthinking owes to this period. There are moments when the contributors do invoke a deeply persistent past, as when Kevin Jackson refers to the continued influence of ‘‘those puritans who instinctively dread the power of moving images’’ on the public discourse of film. And Alan D. Chalmers gets at part of the problem when he complains that Charles Sturridge ’s recent adaptation of Gulliver’s Travels ‘‘vexes admirers of Swift by vexing us too little’’—there is indeed a more critical eighteenth century out there if we want to know it. Thus if this book is disappointing , it is only from a sense that it might haveaddeduptomore,thatitmight have offered a fuller articulation of our relationship to this crucial period of history —not only as we have made it, but as it has made us. Ned Schantz McGill University MICHAEL MCKEON. The Origins of the English Novel, 1600–1740, 15th Anniversary Edition. Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins, 2002. Pp. 560. $25.95 (paper). Reading Mr. McKeon’s new Introduction to his magisterial magnum opus, first published in 1987, I was reminded of Johnson’s feelings about Paradise Lost in Lives of the Poets (1777): ‘‘None ever wished it longer than it is. Its perusal is a duty rather than a pleasure. We read Milton for instruction, retireharassedand overburdened, and look elsewhere for recreation; we desert our master and seek for companions.’’ Remember, though, that Johnson also said of Paradise Lost that ‘‘his work is not the greatestofheroic poems, only because it is not the first.’’ This comparison is a small joke, a light moment such as Mr. McKeon never allows himself. But it is flattering as well as revealing. I reviewed the original edition of The Origins of the English Novel, 180 and I confess that I had to read it twice in order to write my review, which is quoted on the back cover of this new paperback edition, like the other blurbs, with only the journal’s name, without attribution to reviewers, thereby lending these endorsements a sort of impersonality appropriate to the authoritativemanner , marmoreal style, and monumental ambitions of Mr. McKeon’s book. Later, I discovered that my review had ledasubversive existence as a primer to Mr. McKeon’s formidable study, that graduate students used it as a handy Cliff’s Notes. When I ask friends in the field if they have read the book, the question is often greeted by embarrassment and evasion . People claim to have read in it (in Johnsonian fashion: ‘‘Do you read books through, Sir?’’) or to have absorbed its...


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