What is "English" about the English novel, and how has the idea of the English nation been shaped by the writers of fiction? How do the novel's profound differences from poetry and drama affect its representation of national consciousness?
Nation and Novel sets out to answer these questions by tracing English prose fiction from its late medieval origins through its stories of rogues and criminals, family rebellions and suffering heroines, to the present-day novels of immigration. Major novelists from Daniel Defoe to the late twentieth century have drawn on national history and mythology in novels which have pitted Cavalier against Puritan, Tory against Whig, region against nation, and domesticity against empire. The novel is deeply concerned with the fate of the nation, but almost always at variance with official and ruling-class perspectives on English society.
Patrick Parrinder's groundbreaking new literary history outlines the English novel's distinctive, sometimes paradoxical, and often subversive view of national character and identity. This sophisticated yet accessible assessment of the relationship between fiction and nation will set the agenda for future research and debate.
Parrinder (English & American literature, Univ. of Reading, U.K.), the author of numerous books on the modern novel, presents an engaging and accessible history of English prose fiction, from its late medieval beginnings to today. He is specifically concerned with novels representing the "cultural nation of England" and in shifting concepts of what it means to be English. Thus, he includes extended discussions of V.S. Naipaul and Henry James but makes only passing reference to James Joyce. For Parrinder, the English novel speaks from outside the ruling elite but from inside the nation. In its early forms, it looked at a rising merchant class seeking an English identity; later, it examined the decline of the empire and sought to preserve the vestiges of Englishness. Most interesting of all is Parrinder's description of the role of the postcolonial novel. With biographical sketches of approximately 200 novelists, this book is highly recommended for both professional and general readers.-T.L. Cooksey, Armstrong Atlantic State Univ., Savannah, GA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.