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This essay argues that reading works from Jane Austen’s juvenilia alongside Mansfield Park reveals the author’s decades-long engagement in a series of formal experiments traditionally associated with Menippean satire, a strategy she uses to reveal the oppressive nature of British paternalism while still aligning with societal expectations for women authors. “Henry and Eliza” and “Evelyn” lampoon and critique traditional tropes of the popular novel and expose the landed gentry’s and the aristocracy’s proto-capitalist abuses of women, workers, and the poor. Longer (and later) works, “Catharine, or the Bower” and Mansfield Park, expand this emphasis to register anxieties about Britain’s imperial violence at home and abroad. The essay ultimately suggests that Austen’s notoriously tonally opaque novel targets the Evangelical novel as the form most suitable to expose broader British ambivalence toward abolition and emancipation.
This chapter considers chapters themselves as a ‘form of punctuation’, and so they structure our experience of time in reading novels while also offering interventions into our understanding of time in the rest of our lives. This chapter on chapters tracks the history of this principle of narrative organisation as well as various playful attempts to test or defy its conventional limits, showing that chapter division is itself a stylistic device.
Scrutinising Sterne's fiction through a book history lens, Helen Williams creates novel readings of his work based on meticulous examination of its material and bibliographical conditions. Alongside multiple editions and manuscripts of Sterne's own letters and works, a panorama of interdisciplinary sources are explored, including dance manuals, letter-writing handbooks, newspaper advertisements, medical pamphlets and disposable packaging. For the first time, this wealth of previously overlooked material is critically analysed in relation to the design history of Tristram Shandy, conceptualising the eighteenth-century novel as an artefact that developed in close conjunction with other media. In examining the complex interrelation between a period's literature and the print matter of everyday life, this study sheds new light on Sterne and eighteenth-century literature by re-defining the origins of his work and of the eighteenth-century novel more broadly, whilst introducing readers to diverse print cultural forms and their production histories.
Chapter 9 focuses on the two chapters that go missing near the end of the novel, where Uncle Toby is finally able to acknowledge his love for Widow Wadman but only, it seems, with a Bible open to the book of Joshua, the passage about the siege of Jericho. Why this passage? And why does Sterne purposefully misnumber and rearrange these chapters of his novel? The mock fortifications that Uncle Toby and Corporal Trim build together, those replicas of military sieges happening in Europe, work in the novel as metaphors for the ways that all books – whether philosophy, scripture, or fiction – can both distance us from difficult intimate relationships and make room to repair them.
The conclusion moves beyond Richardson, Burney, Austen, and Edgeworth to demonstrate the wide-ranging ramifications of networked authorship for other authors during the period. It was not necessary to be a member of an underprivileged group in order to be situated within an authorship network. Three of their well-educated male contemporaries were influenced by literary networks that inspired significant revisions to their most famous novels: Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy (1759–67), Matthew Lewis’s The Monk (1796), and William Godwin’s Caleb Williams (1794). The case studies of these three novels show that revision was a major tool of eighteenth-century composition practices and was linked to networked authorship, overturning spontaneous, individual conceptions of literary production during the period. The larger consequences of this study are for the categories of novel and author: by concentrating on revision, we can understand the mutability of the novel form and the networked nature of authorship.
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