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Gallagher, Catherine. The Rise of Fictionality.

In: The Novel: History, Geography


and Culture. Editor Franco Moretti, Vol. 1, Princeton and Oxford: Princeton
University Press, 2006.

The Rise of Fictionality, by Catherine Gallagher


RESUMEN
En este artculo Gallagher sostiene que la novela europea del siglo XIX ayud a crear la
nocin de historias que exploran libremente la realidad porque ellas no se autoproclaman
como algo real. Es una especie de no referencialidad que puede ser vista como una gran
referencialidad.
IDEAS PRINCIPALES ENCONTRADAS EN LNEA
Novels,wesay,arelongprosefictions,butgeneralthetermsofthatdefinitionareleftunexamined.Whatis
"prose"afterall?What,CatherineGallagherwantstoask,isfiction?Andhowdidfictionalitybecome
establishedasthematteroffactlydefiningcharacteristicofthenovel.Itisoftenassumedthat"fiction"
isatoolalwaysalreadyavailableineveryonesmentaltoolkit,butGallaghersuggeststhat"thereis
mountinghistoricalevidenceforthe...propositionthatthenoveldiscoveredfiction."Sidneyclaimed
thatsomehumanwriting"nothingaffirmeth,andthereforeneverlieth,"andthatmightseemtoindicatethat
"fictionality"isanunhistoricalnaturalcategory.Butinfactittookalongtimeforfictionality,atleast
theparticularkindoffictionalitythatischaracteristicofthenovel,tobecomeacceptableandforthe
earlierdefinitionoffictionas"deceit,dissimulation,pretense"tofadeoutofuse.
Inmanyearlyworks,whatmightbecalled"fiction"isvirtuallyindisguishablefromfantasy;
romances,fableswithtalkinganimals,allegories,fairytalesallweartheirunrealityontheirsleeve.
Thatisnotthekindoffictionalitycharacteristicofthenovel:"Whentheonlyreliable'operator'of
fictionalitywasmereincredibility,believabilitywastantamounttoatruthclaim."Whathappens
whenDefoestartswritingtextsthatarebelievableANDfalse?That'sanewthing,complicatedbythe
factthatDefoeinitiallyclaimedthatthestorywasinfacttrue.
Fewstoriesoftheearlyeighteenthcentury,sheargues,"werebothplausible(convincentes,
verosmiles)andreceivedasnarrativesaboutpurelyimaginaryindividuals."Suchstorieswere
difficulttoprocessbecause"Twothingswerelacking:(1)aconceptualcategoryoffiction,and(2)
believablestoriesthatdidnotsolicitbelief."Novelsforcedaconceptualizingofthecategoryof"fiction"
becausethisconceptualizingwasneededonly"asthedifferencebetweenfictionsandliesbecameless
obvious,astheoperatorsoffictionalitybecamemultipleandincredibilitylostitsuniqueness."
Gallagherinterestinglydescribedpropernamesas"thekeymodeofnonreferentialityinthenovel."Earlier
storytypeshademployedpropernamesthatcarriedeitherallegoricalsignificanceorsignaledtheir
fictionalitybybeingunbelievable.TomJones,RobinsonCrusoe,ClarissaHarlow,ElizabethBennetall
thesecouldbenamesofyournextdoorneighbor.Again,it'stheplausibilityofthefictionthatraisesnew
questions.Whatexactlydothesenamesreferto?WasFieldingrightinsayingthatthenamesstandin
fora"species"andnotanindividual?Ifso,whyseemsthespeciessoparticular?

OnefinalnoteonGallagher'sessay:Shenotesthat"novelspromotedadispositionofironiccredulity
enabledbyoptimisticincredulity;oneisdissuadedfrombelievingtheliteraltruthofarepresentation
sothatonecaninsteadadmireitslikelihoodandextendenoughcredittobuyintothegame."Again,
"Novelsseektosuspendthereader'sdisbelief,asanelementissuspendedinasolutionthatit
thoroughlypermeates.Disbeliefisthustheconditionoffictionality,promptingjudgments,notabout
thestorysreality,butaboutitsbelievability,itsplausibility."

RESUMEN Y NOTAS SOBRE EL TEXTO ORIGINAL


Ninguna de las caractersticas de la novela pareciera ser tan obvia y sin embargo tan
ampliamente ignorada como lo ficticio (fictionality). Al igual que la prosa, lo ficticio, es
uno de esos trminos definitivos (una novela es una narrativa en prosa extensa y
ficticia) que la mayora de los historiadores han tcitamente coincidido en dejar sin
examinar.
Sin embargo, en nuestra cultura cotidiana, por ejemplo, al ir a una biblioteca o al leer los
peridicos, notamos que la divisin categrica principal en nuestro universo textual es
entre lo que es ficcin y lo que es no ficcin. Tal vez damos por sentado que una
divisin tan omnipresente no necesita de mayor aclaracin.
En este ensayo, Gallagher trata de recuperar para el anlisis no slo la ficcin novelstica
sino tambin explicar por qu es que no se le da prioridad a este tema y ms bien
constantemente se pierde o desaparece detrs de otros trminos como lo narrativo y la
significacin.
Como historiadora de formacin britnica, Gallagher se aproxima a este tema a travs de
la evidencia provista por la novela inglesa de mediados del siglo dieciocho, en la cual se
desarrolla un explcito discurso de lo ficticio. Quiere demostrar que la naturaleza de lo
ficticio (fictionality) vivi un cambio dramtico en las narrativas britnicas de mediados
del siglo dieciocho.
La novela es no slo un tipo de narrativa de ficcin sino que es el tipo en el cual y a
travs del cual lo ficticio se hizo manifiesto, explcito, ampliamente entendido y
aceptado. The historical connection between the terms novel and fiction is intimate;
they were mutually constitutive. And yet the novel has also been widely regarded as
a form that tried, for at least two centuries, to hide its fictionality behind
verosimilitude or realism, insisting on certain kinds of referenciality and even
making extensive truth claims (337)
ESTE ES EL CAMBIO DRAMTICO: LOS ESCRITORES DEL SIGLO XVIII
DEJAN DE ASEGURAR QUE SUS ESCRITOS SON VERDADEROS.
ES UN ACTO DOBLE: LIBERACIN Y APRISIONAMIENTO. Por un lado los
novelistas hicieron un acto de liberacin de lo ficticio pues los escritores del siglo
dieciocho dejaron de hacer lo que sus predecesores: querer convencer a sus lectores

de que lo que escriban eran historias verdaderas. Y, por otro lado, esos mismos
escritores del siglo XVIII aprisionaron y disimularon lo ficticio al encerrarlo en los
confines de lo creble. Gallagher, en resumen, dice que la novela descubri y a la vez
oscureci a la ficcin. Aunque estas dos aseveraciones parecen contradictorias son
vlidas y dice que el revelar y disimular la ficcin en la novela son parte del mismo
proceso (337).
DEFINICIN DE FICCIN DE LA REAL ACADEMIA ESPAOLA.
Ficcin: (1) Accin y efecto de fingir, (2) invencin, cosa fingida, (3) clase de obras
literarias o cinematogrficas generalmente narrativas, que tratan de sucesos y personajes
imaginarios.
() in the early eighteen century, a likely fiction was still considered a lie by the
common reader. While the only reliable operator of fictionality was mere incredibility,
believability was tantamount to a truth claim (339).
LA FICCIN CLAMA SER REAL Y LO QUE SE PRESUME REAL CLAMA SER
FICTICIO
The majority of seventeenth and early eighteenth-century credible prose narratives
including those we now call fictions were meant to be read either as factual
accounts or as allegorical reflections on contemporary people and events. When
Daniel Defoe published Robinson Crusoe in 1719, for example, he certainly intended
to deceive the public, and he succeded. A year later, in the preface to a sequel, Defoe,
under pressure to admit that he had lied, still insisted on the historical accuracy of his tale
but then, inconsistently alleged that each incident in the imaginary story alluded to an
episode in a real Story (339).
Un ejemplo contrario de engao se puede tomar del campo literario, que en la poca
estaba lleno de propagadores de chismes (scandalmongers), una de ellas era Delarivier
Manley, quien fue enjuiciada por injurias y calumnias pues en sus textos hablaba de la
vida palaciega de aristcratas. Precisamente por eso sus textos eran tan populares, pues
los lectores vean en aquellas historias referencias a personalidades de la vida pblica.
Entonces declar que lo que haba escrito era enteramente producto de su imaginacin.
Conceptos de romance y novela. Importante me parece aclarar las diferencias entre
ambos conceptos. Parece que el romance estiliza el perfil de los personajes y los idealiza
pudiendo incorporar elementos que generan incredulidad, mientras que la novela
pretende estar ms cerca de la realidad y dar una versin de la sociedad (esta es mi
interpretacin). DIFERENCIA ENTRE EL ROMANCE Y LA NOVELA EN INGLS,
EN ESPAOL Y EN PORTUGUS.
DEFINICIN DE VEROSMIL DE LA REAL ACADEMIA ESPAOLA
1.adj.Quetieneaparienciadeverdadero.

2.adj.Creblepornoofrecercarcteralgunodefalsedad.

En la primera parte del siglo XVIII eran escasas las historias que fueran, a la vez,
verosmiles y recibidas como narrativas sobre personajes puramente imaginarios,
una categora con la que, ms tarde, el pblico europeo del siglo XIX s estara
familiarizado. La razn del por qu haba pocas historias sobre personajes
imaginarios que fueran verosmiles son dos: (1) la falta de una categora conceptual
de ficcin y (2) la falta de historias crebles que no clamaran ser verdad.
Fictionality only became visible when it became credible, because it only needed
conceptualizing as the difference between fictions and lies became less obvious, as
the operators of fictionality became multiple and incredibility lost its uniqueness
(340).
En los ltimos aos ms crticos se han sumado a sealar la correlacin entre la aparicin
de lo ficticio y la novela. Por ejemplo, Lennard Davis arguye que la novela se desarroll
a partir de lo que l llama la news-novel-matrix, una maraa de periodismo, escndalos
y controversias polticas y religiosas. Para evitar ser demandados, los escritores
recurrieron a la coartada de la ficcin, brindndole a la idea de lo ficticio mayor nitidez y
respetabilidad (340).
Sin importar la poca sinceridad con la que era invocada, la coartada de la ficcin fue
relacionada a la vivacidad y complejidad del mundo narrativo. El crtico Michael

McKeon percibe en el gnero del romance un desarrollo interno que


eventualmente expandi la idea de la verosimilitud como parte de la
idea de verdad. El movimiento que se da del romance a la novela,
demuestra McKeon, es parte de un salto epistemolgico, que pasa de una
construccin estrecha de la verdad como precisin histrica a la de una
comprensin ms amplia que incluira a la verdad concebida como una
simulacin mimtica. Citando a McKeon, Gallagher aduce que the
widespread acceptance of verisimilitude as a form of truth, rather than
a form of lying, founded the novel as a genre. Y adems, crea la categora de
ficcin.
LOS NOMBRES DE LOS PERSONAJES
Antes que estos cambios ocurrieran, Gallagher afirma que hubo una muy limitada y
especfica no referencialidad de la ficcin creble. Un elemento clave en la no
referencialidad de la novela era, y sigue siendo, la de los nombres propios de los
personajes. Entre los escritores del siglo XVIII e incluso en los del siglo anterior, se
asuma que haba una correspondencia entre el nombre propio en una narrativa
creble y un individuo personificado en el mundo.
Sin embargo, un puado de novelas de mediados del siglo XVIII articularon un nuevo
supuesto para una nueva forma: las nuevas novelas no eran sobre nadie en particular. Es

decir, los nombres propios de las novelas no tenan individuos especficos como
referentes y, por lo tanto, nada de lo que se dijera de ellos podra ser verificado o refutado
(341).
Gallagher notes that "novels promoted a disposition of ironic credulity enabled by
optimistic incredulity; one is dissuaded from believing the literal truth of a representation
so that one can instead admire its likelihood and extend enough credit to buy into the
game."
CITA IMPORTANTSIMA: Novels seek to suspend the reader's disbelief, as an
element is suspended in a solution that it thoroughly permeates. Disbelief is thus the
condition of fictionality, prompting judgments, not about the storys reality, but
about its believability, its plausibility (346).

PALABRAS DE BRAINSTORM
Ficticio, Facticio, Fingir, Mentira, Engao
///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////
LO FICTICIO: de la Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism
FICTIONALITY
FictionTheoryandCriticism:1.SeventeenthandEighteenthCentury
British
SecondEdition2005
SeventeenthandearlyeighteenthcenturyEnglishreadershadplentyoffictiontochoosefrom,butauthors
(andcritics)hadnocleartheoreticalschemeorstablenomenclatureforthisdiversebodyofnarrative.Most
criticaldiscussionoffictionoccursinshortprefaces,whichareperhapsbooksellerspromotionsas
muchasauthorsdefensesbutareclearlyreflectionsofawidespreadfeelingthatfiction,precisely
becauseitgivessomuchpleasure,ismorallysuspectandculturallyretrograde.Suchrationalizing
pointsaswelltotheincreasingpopularityofanewandnotclearlyunderstoodkindoffiction.Inprefaces
attachedtofictionalworksthatclaimedseriousmoralpurposetwoopposingtermsrecur:"true
history"and"romance."Writersofromanceinthelateseventeenthcenturytendtojustifytheirworkby
echoingRenaissancecommonplacesderivedfromaristotlesPoeticsthathistoryislimitedtothefactual,
whileromance,inthewordsofRogerBoyle(162179),authorofParthenissa,ARomance(1655),"affords
alargerfieldforinstructionandinvention"(Barnett4).Boylesdefenseofromanceinvokesanopposition
betweentheimprovingmoraleffectsofhistoricalveracityandthedistractingandpotentiallyunhealthy
illusionsoffictionalarrangementthatpersiststotheendoftheeighteenthcentury.ForBoyle,"tisnotthe
truthofawisecounseloringeniousdesignwhichinvitesmentoanimitationthereofbuttherationalityand
probabilityofit,whetheritberealorimaginary"(4).Butforthegreatmajorityofdefendersoffictionuntil

themideighteenthcentury,literal,historicaltruthgivesnarrativeamoralefficacyandauthoritythat
overtlyfictionalinstances,nomatterhowcogent,cannotmatch.
AphraBehn(164089),forexample,beginsOroonoko;orTheRoyalSlave(1678)byinsistingthat
Oroonokoisno"feigndHerowhoseLifeandFortunesFancymaymanageatthePoetsPleasure"(129).
Behnasksthereadertobelievethathernovelislargelyaneyewitnessaccount,supplementedbythe
personaltestimonyoftheherohimself.Inpart,truthclaimssuchasBehnsrespondtoatraditional
suspicionoffictionasaliethatmaygivepleasurebutnotmoralinstruction.Butsuchinsistenceon
documentaryveracitymayalsohavegrownoutofthehungerofagrowingliteratepublicfor"news,"
informationaboutaworldconceivedasanexpandingaccumulationoffactsanddatawhosesignificance
andvaliditylaypreciselyintheirliteralandparticularizedtruthratherthaninthegeneralizedmoralvalidity
thatanearlierconsciousnessconsideredajustificationforfiction.
Theearlyeighteenthcenturyproducedafloodoftopicaljournalism:broadsidesandpamphletsthatoffered
accountsofsensationalcrimesanddomesticviolence,somewhatlongerlivesofnotoriouscriminals,
includingpiratesandhighwaymen,andmanyaccountsoftravelstoexoticplaces.Theadvertisedappealof
thismaterialwasitsrareorunusualsingularityanditsaccompanyingrealisticprobability.Theprefaceto
DanielDefoes(16611731)RobinsonCrusoe(1719)isthebestknownexampleofthissubstantiallynew
doubleclaim.Crusoeisa"privateMan"whoseadventuresare"worthmakingPublick,"saysthepreface,
becauseofits"Wonders...theLifeofoneManbeingscarcecapableofgreaterVariety"(3).Inspiteof
thebooksphenomenalpopularity,DefoethoughtitnecessarytohaveCrusoehimselfaffirminthepreface
tothesequel,TheFartherAdventuresofRobinsonCrusoe(1719),thatthebookwasnota"romance"and
that"alltheEndeavoursofenviousPeople...tosearchitforErrorsinGeography,Inconsistencyinthe
Relation,andContradictionsintheFact,haveprovedabortive,andasimpotentasmalicious"(258).In
1720,whenDefoeissuedhisSeriousReflectionsduringtheLifeandSurprisingAdventuresofRobinson
Crusoe,heagaindeniedinthefaceof"theenviousandilldisposedPartoftheWorld"thathisbookwasa
romanceandinsistedagainthatitwas"allhistoricalandtrueinFact"(259,260).
Totheconfusionoflaterreaders,Crusoeclaimsthatthis"realLifeofeightandtwentyYears,spentinthe
mostwandringdesolateandafflictingCircumstancesthateverManwentthrough"(261),isalso
allegorical,amoralparable.RobinsonCrusoesayshisstoryrecommendsandillustratescertainmoral
virtuespatience,application,resolutionbutDanielDefoeaffirmsthatCrusoesstoryisanallegoryof
hisownlife.Takeallthenarrativesincidents,theprefacedeclaresasDefoeslipsintoarevealing
inconsistency,and"theresnotaCircumstanceintheimaginaryStory,buthasitsjustAllusiontoareal
Story"(261),thelifeof"aManalive,andwellknowntoo,theActionsofwhoseLifearethejustSubject
oftheseVolumes"(25960).
Ultimatelyincoherent,Defoesprefacepointstohisinstinctivegraspofwhatearlyeighteenthcentury
fictionseemstohaveimpliedforitsreaders,ifnotforitscritics.FictionsuchasRobinsonCrusoetriesto
balanceitsintenselyexoticparticularityagainstaunifying,generalizedmoralpattern.Defoesoblique
claimthatthenovelisalsoanallegoryofhisownlifeisaninsightfulconfusionsincethenovelinitslater
manifestationswilloftenrevealitsoriginsinanauthorsexperiencesasaprojectionofauthorial
personality.Ineighteenthcenturycriticalspeculationsuchinsightsarerareandindeedforbiddenbythe
generalmoralpurposesthoughtpropertofiction.
Defoesthreeprefacesunderlinethelingeringdefensivenessofnarrativeperceivedbyitscriticsasmerelya
popularanddegradedmodernversionofromance.ThatmanyreaderseagerlyconsumedbookslikeDefoes
isevidentfromthealarmvoicedbycriticsandmoraliststhroughthecentury.CharlesGildon(16651721),
anirasciblepamphleteerandpoliticalenemyofDefoes,complainedbitterlythat"thereisnotanold
WomanthatcangotothePriceofit,butbuysthyLifeandAdventures,andleavesitasaLegacy,withthe
PilgrimsProgress,thePracticeofPiety,andGodsRevengeagainstMurther,toherPosterity"(Defoe,
RobinsonCrusoe280).TwoyearslaterDefoebegantheprefacetoMollFlanders(1722)bynotingthat"the

WorldissotakenupoflatewithNovelsandRomances,thatitwillbehardforaprivateHistorytobetaken
forgenuine"(3).Intheircultivationofdocumentaryauthenticityandintheirstudiedformlessness,
mimickingtherandomnessofeverydaylife,Defoesnovelsarepseudoautobiographiesandthusprojecta
positivedreadofovertfictionality.Ofcourse,theyalsoofferreadersthepleasuresofvicarious
identificationwithimprobablyresilientandextravagantlysuccessfulcharacters,whoaretothatextent
manifestlyfictionalindividuals.
Somepractitionersintheearlyeighteenthcenturytriedtomakeavirtueoffictionsevolutionfromolder,
aristocraticromancetothedemoticbrisknessofnovels,astheywerebeginningtobecalled.Inhispreface
toIncognita:Or,LoveandDutyReconciled:ANovel(1692)WilliamCongreve(16701729)distinguished
novelsfromromancesbythedistinctivelymodestpleasuretheyoffered,that"morefamiliarnature"that
delighted"withaccidentsandoddevents,butnotsuchasarewhollyunusualorunpresidented[sic],such
whichnotbeingsodistantfromourbeliefbringalsothepleasurenearerus"(Barnett18).Inthesamevein,
MaryDelarivierManleys(16631724)preface(actuallylargelyplagiarizedfromaseventeenthcentury
FrenchessaybytheabbMorvandeBellegardeinhis1702Lettrescurieusesdelitterature)toTheSecret
HistoryofQueenZarahandtheZarazians(1705)findsthat"littleHistories"ofthesortsheoffersinher
collectionofscandalousanecdotesaboutSarah,duchessofMarlborough,havebanishedtheenormous
seventeenthcenturyFrenchromances,whichhadenjoyedconsiderablepopularityinEnglandafterthe
Restoration.ManleysaysthathershortpiecessuittheimpetuoushumoroftheEnglish,who"have
naturallynotasteforlongwindedperformances,fortheyhavenosoonerbegunabookbuttheydesireto
seetheendofit"(22).Inplaceofcomplicatedandmanifestlyunrealromance,Manleypromisesareadable
andundemandingstoryproducedbyamoderaterealismwherebythe"fabulousadventures"ofthe"ancient
Romances"arereplacedby"passions,virtuesorvices,whichresemblehumanity"(24).Thereader,she
explains,isinspired"withcuriosityandacertainimpatientdesiretoseetheendoftheaccidents"(24).But
evenassheunderscoresthereadersexcitedinvolvement,Manleyaffirmstheconventionaldidactic
purposesofnarrativetorecommendvirtueanddiscouragevice.Inpractice,whatManleysscandal
chronicles(includingherpopularSecretMemoirsandMannersofSeveralPersonsofQuality,ofBoth
SexesfromtheNewAtalantis,1709)offerissensationalized"news"aboutprominentpoliticians.She
admitsasmuchinherpreface,whereshenotesthatvirtueandviceareexemplifiedbyinspirationand
engagementratherthanby"moralreflections,maxims,andsentences,"whichare"moreproperin
discoursesforinstructionsthaninHistoricalNovels"(26).
InManleysfictiondidacticclarityisconsistentlyburiedbyanavalancheofsexualfantasyandemotional
melodrama,qualitiespurveyedinlargequantitythroughthe1720sand1730sbytheamatorynovella,
whosemostprolificproducerwasManleyssuccessor,ElizaHaywood(16931756).Inherdedicationto
TheFatalSecret,orConstancyinDistress(1724)Haywooddefiantlymakesavirtueoutofher
disadvantagesasawomanwriterandintheprocesspointsaheadtoarecurringemphasisinmidcentury
criticismoffiction.Asawoman,Haywoodis"deprivdofthoseAdvantagesofEducationwhichtheother
Sexenjoy,"andshecanwriteonlyaboutlove,"thatwhichNatureisnotnegligenttoteachus."The
femalenovelistrequiresnoliterarytrainingand"nogeneralConversation,noApplication;ashadyGrove
andpurlingStreamareallThingsthatsnecessarytogiveusanIdeaofthetenderPassion."Experienced
professionalthatshewas,Haywoodmaynothavebeenentirelyseriousinthispreface,butherclaims
appealtoaconceptionofthenovelistasessentiallyartlessandthereforepowerful.Twentyfiveyearslater,
inTomJones(1749),HenryFielding(170754)registeredhisannoyancewithsuchanapproachto
narrativeashecontemplatedthe"romancesandnovelswithwhichtheworldabounds"andremarkedthat
fortheircomposition"nothingisnecessarybutpaper,pens,andink,withthemanualcapacityofusing
them"(bk.9,ch.1).
FromtheopeningpagesofTomJonesFieldingsreaderisofferedanentitythatrequiresmorethan
penmanshiptoproduce;thenovelisanelaboratelyconstructedandselfconsciouslyliteraryartifact,what
itsauthorhadearliercalled,intheprefacetoJosephAndrews(1742),a"comicepicpoeminprose."In
thatprefaceandinthevariousintroductorychaptersinTomJones,Fieldingoutlinestheeighteenth
centurysmostexplicittheoryoffiction,atheorywithtworelatedemphases.Althoughheclaims

originalityandsetshimselfupinTomJonesas"thefounderofanewprovinceofwriting"(bk.2,ch.1),
Fieldinginsiststhatheismaintainingcontinuitywiththeancientliterarygenres.Hischiefjustificationfor
fictionisthatlikeclassicalliterature,itoffersaknowledgeofhumannatureconceivedasuniversaland
uniform,recurrentthroughsuperficialhistoricalchanges.Butallhisnovelsalsostriveforasociohistorical
comprehensiveness,andthereissomethingofanimplicittensionbetweenhistheoryandpractice,between
thegeneralizing,ahistoricalmoralpsychologicalassertionsofhistheoryandhisnovelscomprehensive
andparticularizedhistoricalambitions.InJosephAndrewsandespeciallyinTomJonesFieldingemploys
anauthoritativenarratorwhosteersreadersthroughthiscentralambiguity,buthisscatteredtheoretical
remarkspointtohissenseofadeepinstabilityinhistheoryoffiction.
ButFieldingsnovels,withtheirbuiltincriticaltheoryoffiction,establishonemaintraditionofEnglish
fiction:thebroadlycomprehensivenarrativethatplacestheprotagonistscareeragainstapanoramicsocial
backdrop.Fieldingslesscerebralmajorrival,TobiasSmollett(172171),offeredinthededicationto
Ferdinand,CountFathom(1753)aworkingdefinitionthatdescribesthismajorstrandofeighteenthcentury
novelisticpracticeandtreatsitsproblemsasessentiallyartisticandstructural:
ANovelisalargediffusedpicture,comprehendingthecharactersoflife,disposedin
differentgroups,andexhibitedinvariousattitudes,forthepurposesofanuniformplan,
andgeneraloccurrence,towhicheveryindividualsfigureissubservient.Buthisplan
cannotbeexecutedwithpropriety,probabilityorsuccess,withoutaprincipalpersonage
toattracttheattention,untietheincidents,unwindtheclueofthelabyrinth,andatlast
closethescenebyvirtueofhisownimportance.(Barnett65)
LikeHogarthspaintings,FieldingsandSmollettsnovelsseektorendercontemporarylifeinits
disorderlyplenitudebutalsotoresolveitintoartisticandmoralpattern.Theircontemporariestendedto
focusontheirnovelsrealismandtoworrythatitblurredmoraldistinctions.InRambleressaynumber4,
publishedinMarch1750,theyearafterthegreatsuccessofTomJonesandofSmollettsRoderick
Random,samueljohnson(170984)admiredthedidacticeffectivenessof"thesefamiliarhistories,"which
intheirrealism"conveytheknowledgeofviceandvirtuewithmoreefficacythanaxiomsanddefinitions."
Johnsonidentifiedthechiefaudienceoffictionas"theyoung,theignorant,andtheidle"andstressedthe
moraldangersinits"powerofexample,"whichcan"takepossessionofthememorybyakindofviolence
andproduceeffectsalmostwithouttheinterventionofthewill."SoJohnsoncounseledarestrained
fictionalrepresentationthatencouragedvirtueanddepictedviceonlyinorderto"raisehatred[ofit]bythe
malignityofitspracticesandcontemptbythemeannessofitsstratagems"(Barnett69).
Johnsonswarningsareeloquenttestimonytowhatheandhiscontemporariessawasthedisturbingpower
ofanewkindoffiction,andhisdenunciationofFieldingsnovelsandhispraiseofSamuelRichardsons
(16891761)inconversationswithhisbiographer,JamesBoswell,articulateatheoryoftwoopposing
fictionalmodels.Richardson,saysJohnson,drew"charactersofnature,"whereasFieldingsare
"charactersonlyofmanners"(Boswell2:49),superficialandlimitedtooutwardsociohistoricalaccidents.
WhenBoswellcountersthisdisparagementbysayingthatFieldingdrew"verynaturalpicturesofhuman
life,"JohnsonrepliesthatFieldingdepicted"lowlife"andthat"thereismoreknowledgeoftheheartin
oneletterofRichardsonsthaninallTomJones"(2:174).Richardsonsoriginality,forJohnsonandothers,
layinfactbeyondthedidacticpurposesbothcriticsandnovelistscherished.The"nature"Richardson
uniquelyrepresentedforJohnsonwasapsychologicalintensityandmoralcomplexitythatFieldingand
Smollettnecessarilyslightedinfavorofsocialandmoralbreadth.In1778FrancesBurney(17521840),in
theprefacetoherfirstnovel,Evelina,triedtobalancetheseconcepts,describingherbookasanattempt"to
drawcharactersfromnature,thoughnotfromlife,andtomarkthemannersofthetimes"(Barnett139).
Charactersworthpayingattentionto,sheimplies,aredrawnfroma"nature"thatissomehowseparate
from"manners,"whichareimplicitlyasurfacerealitytoberenderedbythenovelistinordertobe
correctedbytherevelationofthenatural.

Butthis"nature"thatfictionsoughttorepresentpresentedseriousproblemsfortheregulatedmoralism
Johnsonchampioned.Inspiteofhisheavilydidacticintentions,Richardsonfoundthatmanyreaderswere
morallyconfusedbyhisdepictionofhissaintlyheroineandrakishvillain,ClarissaandLovelace.
Richardsonscharactersenactastrugglefordominanceovereachotherasmuchasanexemplarybattle
betweenviceandvirtue,andhisfirstreaderstendedtostrayfromtheneatnessofhisdidacticmodel,drawn
toLovelaceorsuspiciousofClarissasmotives.Hopingtocurbwhathesawaswaywardreading,
Richardsonrevisedthenoveltomakethemoralcontraststrongerandclearer,fightingagainsttheessential
driftofhisgeniusforrepresenting"nature."Aspartofthissamerevisionofhisnovelinthefaceofmany
readersdemandsforahappyending,RichardsonmadeelaborateliteraryclaimsforClarissa,addingtothe
1751fourtheditionapostscriptthatjustifiedthenovel(anditsviolationofpoeticjusticewiththedeathof
Clarissa)intermsofneoclassicalliterarytheoryasanewkindofChristiantragedy.Partlyaresultof
Richardsonsdefensiveselfconsciousnessasanonlearnedwriter,suchaclaimpointsaswelltohis
alarmingexperienceofhisownfictionsforcefulrenderingofthewilltopoweroftheindividual
personalitiesofhisprotagonists.Butfinally,inhispostscript,RichardsonbaseshisdefenseofClarissa,of
itsinordinatelengthanditsepistolaryform,onthe"necessitytobeverycircumstantialandminuteinorder
topreserveandmaintainthatairofprobabilitywhichisnecessarytobemaintainedinaStorydesignedto
representreallife"(bk.4,564).
Realisticinnovationis,infact,thesinequanonforalleighteenthcenturyappraisaloffiction,andinspite
ofhisdismayoverhisreadersmisinterpretations,Richardsondoesnotwaverinhiscommitmentto
evokingwhatturnsouttobeadisturbingandambiguoustruth.Romanceanditsremoteimprobabilities,
manycriticnovelistsinsist,mustbebanished,aninsistencethatpointstotheunsettlingpersistenceof
romance,bothinthecontinuedpopularityoftraditionalromancesintothelateeighteenthcenturyandinthe
emergenceofthe"gothic"noveljustafterthemiddleofthecentury.ThusHoraceWalpole(171797)
notedintheprefacetothesecondeditionofhispioneeringgothicnovel,TheCastleofOtranto(1765),that
modern"romance"had"byastrictadherencetocommonlife"repressed"thepowersoffancy"(Barnett
113).Walpolesattemptwasto"conductthemortalagentsinhisdramaaccordingtotherulesof
probability"(114).Onemightsaythatalleighteenthcenturycriticismoffictionconsistsinasimilar
projecttoreconcileapowerfulandpersistentappetiteinreadersfortheamoralpleasuresofromancewith
themoralhistoricalimperativessummedupinrealismandprobabilitythatareitscorrectiveopposites.
Itisthereforefittingthatthefirstbooklengthcriticaltreatiseonfictionintheeighteenthcenturyshouldbe
ClaraReeves(17291807)ProgressofRomance(1785).Presentedasaseriesofcolloquiesamongthree
friends,thebookproposes,inthewordsofReevesmouthpiece,Euphrasia,"totraceRomancetoits
Origin,tofollowitsprogress...toshewhowthemodernNovelsprungupoutofitsruins"(8).Euphrasia
presentsawellinformeddefenseandliteraryhistoryofromancethatdescribesitsoriginsinepicpoetry
anditsearlymanifestationintheGreekromancesofantiquity,itsmedievalflowering,anditsdecadencein
seventeenthcenturyFrenchheroicromance.Reeveoffersthisexacthistoryofromanceinordertoestablish
itastheessentialgroundforthemodernnovelbutalsotodistinguishthetwoasclearlyaspossibleandto
markthecrucialdifferencesforthosewhowouldconfoundthetwoinordertodisparagethenovel."The
Romanceisanheroicfable,whichtreatsoffabulouspersonsandthings.TheNovelisapictureofreal
lifeandmanners,andofthetimesinwhichitiswritten"(111).Whatthenovelcanuniquelydoisto
"representeveryscene,insoeasyandnaturalamanner,andtomakethemappearsoprobable,asto
deceiveusintoapersuasion(atleastwhilewearereading)thatallisreal,untilweareaffectedbythejoys
ofdistresses,ofthepersonsinthestory,asiftheywereourown"(111).Reevesdialoguethusarticulates
andseekstoreconciletheoppositionbetweenromanceandthenovelthatshapeseighteenthcenturycritical
discussionoffiction.ForReeve,thenovelisnotarepudiationofromancebutanevolutionfromit;its
involvingrealismandimmediacymarkthenovelasdistinct,butromanceatitsbestinculcated"principles
ofvirtueandhonour"anddeservesrespectandpreservation.
JohnJ.Richetti
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Seealsobritishtheoryandcriticism:1.earlyeighteenthcenturyand2.lateeighteenthcentury.

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TOP

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