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Friday, June 08, 2012

Institutions Of The English Novel by Homer Obed Brown

Samuel Richardson

Book Review
Institutions of the English Novel
by Homer Obed Brown
University of Pennsylvania Press
p. 1997

 I think most of what the reader needs to know about this book is encapsulated by the Index entry for Jacques Derrida:

  Derrida, J., 4, 8, 41-42, 74, 138, 204n.5, 207n.12, n. 19, 208n.29.

  Sure, many of those references are in the notes, but that should hardly count against Jacques Derrida- dude lives in the notes.   There is an interesting book buried in 200 pages of discipline specific jargon, which is that the canonization process of the 18th century Novel: works by Authors like Samuel Richardson, Henry Fielding and Lawrence Sterne- didn't actually happen until the beginning of the 19th century.  In other words, he's saying that there is a kind of pause button that is set on the canonization process- a delay if you will.

Henry Fielding

  I think that one point is interesting enough to explore in detail, but the rest of this book is exactly the kind of book you would expect from an Author who would cite Jacques Derrida ten times in 200 page book.

  In the style of Jacques Derrida use of paradox and counter-example, the heart of Brown's argument lies in the critical treatment of Daniel Defoe in the early 19th century, a time when other early Novelists of the 18th century were being canonized by critics like Sir Walter Scott.  An example of true literary critic hermetic-ism, Institutions of the English Novel largely exists to criticize Ian Watt's The Rise of the Novel as being superficial and reductionist.  Well excuse me for thinking that Daniel Defoe was canonized in the same time period as Henry Fielding and Samuel Richardson.

Daniel Defoe

   I think there is an interesting book that could be developed about of parts of Institutions of the English Novel, but most of this book is a struggle and carries a high level of lit crit jargon. 

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