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The Rise of the Novel: Studies in Defoe,…

The Rise of the Novel: Studies in Defoe, Richardson and Fielding (1957)

by Ian Watt

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Il suo Rise of the Novel: Studi di Defoe, Richardson e Fielding (1957) è un lavoro importante nella storia del genere. Anche se pubblicato nel 1957, la nascita del romanzo è ancora considerato da molti studiosi letterari come uno dei lavori più importanti sulle origini del romanzo. Il libro ripercorre la nascita del romanzo moderno filosofico, sottolineando le tendenze economiche e sociali, e le condizioni che diventarono di primo piano nel 18 ° secolo. E' utile anche oggi, come nel XXI secolo, ribadire l'importanza di questo saggio per la storia e l'analisi del romanzo e riproporne la lettura, non solo per gli esperti, ma per chiunque sia interessato al romanzo e alla storia europea. ( )
  AntonioGallo | Nov 2, 2017 |
I bought this as a secondary reading source for an English module I undertook at university.

Parts were interesting but on the whole I'm not a fan of this type of work and wouldn't have purchased a copy if it hadn't been on our recommended reading list. ( )
  PhilSyphe | Jul 19, 2016 |
In some senses, I guess this book is out of date. Watt deals with the most influential early English novelists, while taking care to show that they probably weren't 'Novelists' as we think of them today. He's not interested in expanding the canon, or arguing that less influential writers are better than his chosen three (Defoe, Richardson and Fielding). He doesn't focus on gender, or race, or class. He doesn't try to uncover inconsistencies within the novels he writes about. There's no political puffery.

And thanks to these facts, this book should stand as a gold standard of criticism. He presents arguments, which the reader can disagree with on rational grounds. By not *focussing* on identity politics, he can actually describe the ways that gender and class work within the novels in question, and how the functions of gender and class in the real world context inform the novels. This is not an attack on Fielding's sexism, or Richardson's prudery, or Defoe's avarice; it is an attempt to understand the authors' attitudes towards the relationships of men and women, and the relationships of economic individuals.

Watt asks fundamental questions, and then tries to answer them, a refreshing approach 50 years after publication. Why did the novel arise when it did in England? He tends towards strictly sociological answers to these questions: the rise of individualism, capitalism and the middle classes explain the novel's prominence. But this does not keep him from asking more formal and literary questions. He gives arguments for *both* Defoe's relationship to individualist capitalism, *and* the form that his works take; both the context of Richardson's sexual politics and the literary reasons for his using the epistolary form; Fielding's 'conservatism' and the influence of neo-classicism on his novels.

I disagree with many of Watt's conclusions, particularly with regard to Richardson's 'progressivism' and Fielding's 'conservatism.' Watt seems to rely too much on realism as a criterion for judging the success of the works in question, and this leads him to argue that Fielding's works are more class-bound than they are). The mark of this book's greatness is that despite fundamental disagreements, I'll be taking this book as a model for my own work in the future. ( )
1 vote stillatim | Dec 29, 2013 |
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There are still no wholly satisfactory answers to many of the general questions which anyone interested in the early eighteenth-century novelists and their works is likely to ask: Is the novel a new literary form?
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0520230698, Paperback)

The Rise of the Novel is Ian Watt's classic description of the interworkings of social conditions, changing attitudes, and literary practices during the period when the novel emerged as the dominant literary form of the individualist era.
In a new foreword, W. B. Carnochan accounts for the increasing interest in the English novel, including the contributions that Ian Watt's study made to literary studies: his introduction of sociology and philosophy to traditional criticism.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:43 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

This is the story of a most ingenious invention: the novel. Desribed for the first time in The Rise of The Novel, Ian Watt's landmark classic reveals the origins and explains the success of the most popular literary form of all time. In the space of a single generation, three eighteenth-century writers - Daniel Defoe, Samuel Richardson and Henry Fielding - invented an entirely new genre of writing: the novel. With penetrating and original readings of their works, as well as those of Jane Austen, who further developed and popularised it, he explains why these authors wrote in the way that they did, and how the complex changes in society - the emergence of the middle-class and the new social position of women - gave rise to its success. Heralded as a revelation when it first appeared, The Rise of The Novel remains one of the most widely read and enjoyable books of literary criticism ever written, capturing precisely and satisfyingly what it is about the form that so enthralls us.… (more)

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