Modern romance and transformations of the novel
by Ian Duncan
Cambridge University Press
Modern romance and transformations of the novel has been parked in the depths of my Amazon Wish List since 2012 and I was like, "Fuck it, let's knock this puppy out." Get another label tag for Sir Walter Scott, Charles Dickens, 18th century literature, 19th century literature. That's five reasons to read this book. This title is not for the casual reader. I maybe grasped forty percent of the material. The author is well immersed in the critical literary theory of the 80s and 90s, with tons of references to French theorists.
The thesis tracks with that espoused by the Authors in The Invention of Tradition, which also discusses the role that Sir Walter Scott had in inventing the tradition of the Scottish highlands. Sir Walter Scott was a second generation Edinburgh attorney, and a member of the lesser Scotch/English nobility. He was not from or of the Scottish highland locale that he popularized. Scott was also well familiar with the literary genre of Romance.
If there is one single fact I've learned about the "Rise of the Novel" in the 18th and 19th century, it's that the closest literary antecedent was the Romance. The Romance was not a primarily English genre- with the leading exponents coming from France and Spain. Also, the beginning of the move from Romance to Novel was also from Spain, with Don Quixote being widely read in English translation shortly after publication.
Duncan argues that it was Scott who, by and large, performed this transformation. His work had a complex relationship with history and politics, and this relationship is only comprehensible if one understands Scott's relationship to his English audience. Duncan also discusses the relationship between Scott and Dickens, and argues that Dickens success was spurred by his careful attention to Scott and his wielding of Romance to other popular genres of literature.
For specialists only, and those with an interest in critical theory.