Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-dc8c957cd-wvfx2 Total loading time: 0.721 Render date: 2022-01-28T21:49:02.415Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "figures": true, "newCiteModal": false, "newCitedByModal": true, "newEcommerce": true, "newUsageEvents": true }

6 - Walter Scott's Romantic postmodernity

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 September 2009

Jerome McGann
Affiliation:
Professor Department of English, University of Virginia
Leith Davis
Affiliation:
Simon Fraser University, British Columbia
Ian Duncan
Affiliation:
University of California, Berkeley
Janet Sorensen
Affiliation:
University of California, Berkeley
Get access

Summary

In 1884 “The Art of Fiction” was not what it was in 1819, or what it would become in the late twentieth-century aftermath of Henry James's celebrated Modernist manifesto. For James the art of fiction is unam, sanctam, catholicam, as is clear in his dismissal of the distinction, authoritative since Scott, between novel and romance. “I can think of no obligation,” James writes, “to which the romancer would not be held equally with the novelist.” And why? Because the issue is a craft issue: “the standard of execution is equally high for each [and] it is of execution we are talking” (“The Art of Fiction,” 56). Fair enough, one thinks. But when we recall what James says about Trollope in the same essay, we realize there are many rooms in the house of fiction, not all of them to James's fastidious taste:

Certain accomplished novelists have a habit of giving themselves away which must often bring tears to the eyes of people who take their fiction seriously. I was lately struck, in reading over many pages of Anthony Trollope, with his want of discretion in this particular. In a digression, a parenthesis or an aside, he concedes to the reader that he and his trusting friend are only “making believe.” He admits that the events he narrates have not really happened, and that he can give his narrative any turn the reader may like best. Such a betrayal of a sacred office seems to me, I confess, a terrible crime [and] it shocks me every whit as much in Trollope as it would have shocked me in Gibbon or Macaulay. It implies that the novelist is less occupied in looking for the truth … than the historian, and in doing so it deprives him at a stroke of all his standing room. To represent and illustrate the past, the actions of men, is the task of either writer, and the only difference that I can see is, in proportion as he succeeds, to the honour of the novelist, consisting as it does in his having more difficulty in collecting his evidence …

(46–7)
Type
Chapter
Information
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2004

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)
1
Cited by

Send book to Kindle

To send this book to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Send book to Dropbox

To send content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Send book to Google Drive

To send content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×