The amount of data and information included in this assignment was absolutely massive! Sometimes I felt overwhelmed by all the texts, data, and information provided in Garside’s introduction.
A major trend I noticed in just the bibliography was the way that the title, author, and content of the work appeared to influence the way that critics would read and subsequently review a book. It felt like many of the reviews of novels published anonymously, by women, or containing content that occupied a feminine sphere (such as the memoirs of older women or the histories/letters of younger women) were held to a different standard than those published by men or about men. This is clearly evidenced in the comments on the anonymous “The Wedding Ring; or the History of Miss Sidney”, in which CR refers to something called “…the female library.” Thus, it sort of feels like anything related to the feminine sphere is being relegated or written off as “other” or atypical in some way, which supports Armstrong’s claim that the separation of gender spheres in domestic fiction contributed to the rise of the individual subjectivity. In other words, this “female library” may be abnormal, but it may be on to something, and the critics don’t really know how to handle it.
It’s also worth noting that a work by the famous Voltaire is included in this bibliography, and the comments on his work are particularly of note. In essence, the comments on “Young James Or the Sage and the Atheist” boil down to something along the lines of: “Oh yeah, it’s Voltaire. Of course this is a good book,” whereas many of the other authors discussed in the bibliography are subject to a pretty thorough critique of even the minor characters in their work (like the Captain in Evelina. It appears that at least in the literary/scholarly world, your name can still carry some weight when it comes to critical reception of your early novel.
The five early novels I chose to compare were: Clara Reeve’s The champion of virtue. A Gothic story. By the editor of The Phonix. A translation of Barclay's Argenis, Voltaire’s Young James or the sage and the atheist. An English story. From the French of M. de Voltaire, Louisa Wharton’s Louisa Wharton. A story founded on facts: written by herself, in a series of letters to a friend. Wherein is Displayed Some particular ... and so on, Sutton-Abbey. A novel. In a series of letters, founded on facts, and Evelina.
When comparing these five early novels, the most noticeable difference between Evelina and the other novels I selected was the fact that Evelina was the only one out of the five that did not claim to be fiction or a story in any way on its title page. Young James is a “story”, and so are Louisa Wharton and “The champion of virtue.” Sutton-Abbey is the only one of the five to claim itself as a novel on the title page, but in the preface argues that it was “…not intended for publication.” Whether this claim is merely to convince readers that this is somehow a more authentic narrative or that it really was never meant to be printed lies beyond the scope of the exercise at hand. Regardless, the main conclusion that I drew from this discrepancy is that by not claiming to be a fictionalized story or a novel in any way on the title page, Evelina is actually succeeding the most at being exactly that: a fictionalized story AND a novel. This is evidenced by the generally favorable comments included in the bibliography, which stand in stark contrast to those of Sutton-Abbey, which gets called nothing more than second-rate. So, is the trick to being a popular 18th-century novel to be a “hipster novel”, by keeping silent about your novel-ness and allowing others to marvel at your talents? Maybe.
Moving on to Artemis: Just for funsies, I tried to search the time period 1760-1800 with the “Novel” filter under document type and got no results back. Does that mean Artemis doesn’t recognize any 18th century works as novels? I don’t know the answer. I might have just formatted it wrong, but it’s a question worth investigating in the future.
When I did get some results using the normal search methods, I was fascinated at the results of both data visualization tools. I saw that a spoke in the metaphorical wheel of words and connections was “Author”, but the only names underneath those spokes were female names; actually, “Ladies” was a major subcategory of the spoke “Author”. Again, I think that says a lot about the relationship between the feminine sphere and the rise of the individual subjectivity and its primacy in the early novel, as argued by Armstrong. Another piece of data that supports her claim is the fact that one of the subcategories of “Lady” is “Facts”, suggesting that those two are deeply related in some way.
For my term frequency graph, I plotted a few different terms together and got something pretty neat back. By including “novel”, “story”, “life”, “letters”, and “lady” together on the same graph, it’s easy to see that all of these terms are closely related in some way. All of these words show a pretty steady increase as the 18th century draws to a close, signaling what could be interpreted as the beginning of the rise of the novel as a major player on the literary scene, and that “life” is an essential part of the “story” that “novel”s are trying to tell. Also, more so than any other two terms, “letters” and “lady” follow each other so closely that it’s hard to tell which line is which at some points in the graph. Essentially, this tells us that if there’s going to be the mention of a lady in an early novel, it’s probably because it’s an epistolary novel and a lady is the one writing it. And in this way, we can also speculate that the rise of “lady” and “letters” directly relate to the overall rise of just the novel in general.
#Exercise5 #bibliography #voltaire