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Story and History Narrative, Authority and Social Identity in the Eighteenth Century French and English Novel by William Ray

Story and History Narrative, Authority and Social Identity in the Eighteenth Century French and English Novel


Story and History Narrative, Authority and Social Identity in the Eighteenth Century French and English Novel by William Ray

A comprehensive , ambitious, and demanding critique of eighteenth-century English and French fiction, Story and History rereads the major works of the period as components in a systematic exploration of how the ordering of experience by individuals might relate to larger orders of authority. Interpreting the evolving thematic pattern of fiction in both countries as a plot in its own right, William Ray argues that the novel's rise in the eighteenth century coincided with a growing conviction - which the genre both reflected and fostered - that selfhood, social identity, public authority, and ultimately even historical truth and cultural values, all hinge on narrative representation. From the early novels of individualism, which emphasize the relating of personal experience as a means of altering social hierarchies and securing privileges for the exceptional individual, to the later metanovels, whose complex dialectical models of history both invite and exclude manipulation of the shared record, Story and History traces not only the relationship of individual story to collective history, but also finction's evolving grasp of its own cultural authority. Presented as an evolving story whose episodes are furnished by the successive works in treats, the sutdy seeks its model of the eighteenth century's understanding of narration and social reality within the stories of narrative manipulation contained in the most influential fiction of the period. Novels examined include: La Princesse de Cleves, Robinson Crusoe, Moll Flanders, Poxana, La Vie de Martanne, Le paysan parvenu, Manon Lescout, Pamela, Clarissa, Joseph Andrews, Tom Jones, Julie, ou la nouvelle Heloise, Tristam Shandy, Jacques le fataliste, and Les Liaisons dangereuses.

About the Author

William Ray teaches at Reed College, Oregon. His previous publications include Literary Meaning: From Phenomenology to Deconstruction, also available from Blackwell, and numerous articles on literary theory. He is currently working on eighteenth-century poetics and theories of history.

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Book Info

Publication date

17th May 1990


William Ray

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Blackwell Publishers an imprint of John Wiley and Sons Ltd


400 pages


Literary studies: c 1500 to c 1800
Literary theory



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