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The Origins of the English Novel, 1600-1740

, 560 pages
April 2002



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The Origins of the English Novel, 1600-1740
15th Anniversary Edition, with a New Introduction by the Author

The Origins of the English Novel, 1600-1740, combines historical analysis and readings of extraordinarily diverse texts to reconceive the foundations of the dominant genre of the modern era. Now, on the fifteenth anniversary of its initial publication, The Origins of the English Novel stands as essential reading. The anniversary edition features a new introduction in which the author reflects on the considerable response and commentary the book has attracted since its publication by describing dialectical method and by applying it to early modern notions of gender.

Challenging prevailing theories that tie the origins of the novel to the ascendancy of "realism" and the "middle class," McKeon argues that this new genre arose in response to the profound instability of literary and social categories. Between 1600 and 1740, momentous changes took place in European attitudes toward truth in narrative and toward virtue in the individual and the social order. The novel emerged, McKeon contends, as a cultural instrument designed to engage the epistemological and social crises of the age.

Michael McKeon is a professor in the Department of English at Rutgers University.

"The last two decades have been turbulent ones for the study of the novel, and most of the waves have been created by Michael McKeon... The fifteenth anniversary edition... offers the opportunity to reflect on McKeon's extraordinary contribution to studies of the novel... Because the work is so careful and the thinking so precise, I find the story he tells just as compelling now as in the 1980s and, if anything, more satisfying in its comprehension of issues and weaving them into a coherent whole."

"This book is a formidable attempt to articulate issues of almost imponderable centrality for modern life and literature. McKeon proposes with quite breathtaking ambition and considerable intellectual flourish to redefine the novel's key role in those immense cultural transformations that produce the modern world."

"A magisterial work of history and analysis."

"One of the most rigorous and penetrating books I have read—and one of the most widely researched in its coverage of texts, theory, and historical developments."

"A powerful and solid work that will dominate discussion of its subject for a long time to come."

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