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Genealogical Fictions

, 272 pages
December 2014



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Genealogical Fictions

Cultural Periphery and Historical Change in the Modern Novel

Choice Outstanding Academic Title, 2015

Taking its cue from recent theories of literary geography and fiction, Genealogical Fictions argues that narratives of familial decline shape the history of the modern novel, as well as the novel’s relationship to history. Stories of families in crisis, Jobst Welge argues, reflect the experience of historical and social change in regions or nations perceived as "peripheral." Though geographically and temporally diverse, the novels Welge considers all demonstrate a relation among family and national history, genealogical succession, and generational experience, along with social change and modernization.

Welge’s wide-ranging comparative study focuses on the novels of the late nineteenth century, but it also includes detailed analyses of the pre-Victorian origin of the genealogical-historical novel and the evolution of similar themes in twentieth-century literature. Moving through time, he uncovers often-unsuspected novelistic continuities and international transformations and echoes, from Maria Edgeworth’s Castle Rackrent, published in 1800, to G. Tomasi di Lampedusa’s 1958 book Il Gattopardo.

By revealing the "family resemblance" of novels from Great Britain, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Brazil, this volume shows how genealogical narratives take on special significance in contexts of cultural periphery. Welge links private and public histories, while simultaneously integrating detailed accounts of various literary fields across the globe. In combining theories of the novel, recent discussions of cultural geography, and new approaches to genealogical narratives, Genealogical Fictions addresses a significant part of European and Latin American literary history in which texts from different national cultures illuminate each other in unsuspected ways and reveal the repetition, as well as the variation, among them. This book should be of interest to students and scholars of comparative literature, world literature, and the history and theory of the modern novel.

Jobst Welge teaches Romance literature and cultural studies at the University of Konstanz.

""Jobst Welge's impressive new book... argues deftly for an intimate relation between national geography and historical narrative.""

""Jobst Welge's impressive new book... argues deftly for an intimate relation between national geography and historical narrative.""

"One of the most significant critical works about the European/American novel since Ian Watt's The Rise of the Novel (1957)."

"Jobst Welge’s observation of the centrality of genealogical fictions to the question of national identity—and the potential this concept has for clarifying problems of peripheral modernities and their relation to or inflection of the novelistic form—is highly original and will be of great interest to the field, particularly to scholars focusing on the history of the novel in the European tradition. The author demonstrates fluency in a wide array of Western literary traditions; he is a true comparativist, with the ability to work equally closely on Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and English texts. This book should be required reading for any comparativist approach to the history of the novel."

"Genealogical Fictions is a mature, distinguished contribution to the history of the novel that establishes Welge as one of the leading comparativists of his generation. It is a work whose brilliance lies in its impressive scope and patiently constructed, historically informed, compelling arguments regarding the role of genealogy and family history in the modern novel from the United Kingdom to Brazil to Italy to Spain."

"Though all of the texts considered are written from an (embattled) periphery, none ultimately adopts a posture that is merely melancholic, nostalgic, or politically reactionary. In Welge’s hands, and considered as a corpus, they are shown instead to speak back in complicating ways to nineteenth century master narratives of modernity, the nation-state, and the bourgeoisie."

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