Discuss political, economic and social circumstances at the making of the English novel.

MODERN ENGLISH LITERATURE NOTES

  • - Authors in the 18th century narratives often compared their plots to machines
  • - They used mechanical metaphors in the wake of the scientific revolution – the machine became the dominant model for understanding the organization of nature and became prominent in everyday cultural life.
  • - However, this idea — of the world being a piece of clockwork and the people its many parts –challenged:
  • o Traditional religious conceptions of the freedom of will
  • o and newer political principles protecting the right of the individual to resist the domination of absolute power
  • - The definition of the novel as a genre in the 18th century resulted from attempts to reconcile the contradictions between notions of individual freedom and the new, mechanical understanding of nature.
  • - Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones, though celebrated for its ‘clockwork’ form, was written in a response to the mechanization of the theatre (e.g. pantomimes), which seemed to be threatening the professional integrity of actors and authors.
  • - In Tristram Shandy, Laurence Sterne repeatedly invokes machines as metaphors for narrative, but then shows that the “sunshine” and “soul” of the reading experience is to be found in those moments when the narrative machine breaks down into digressions.

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