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Governing Consumption

James Cruise

Needs and Wants, Suspended Characters, and the "Origins" of Eighteenth-Century English Novels

1999
246 pages
$42.50
ISBN 0-8387-5428-7
LC 98-23974
Bucknell Studies in Eighteenth Century Literature and Culture

Governing Consumption challenges anew the underlying assumptions made by Ian Watt and other, recent influential scholars about the origins of the eighteenth-century English novel. By examining archival materials, and developing a broad historical and critical discussion, James Cruise places the fiction of Defoe, Richardson, Fielding, and Sterne within the framework of consumer capitalism, the existing market for narrative fiction, and a developing culture of needs and wants. He thereby argues that commercialization and the dynamic of its demands-based economy helped to shape the cultural processes by which the novel became a discursively rich, character-centered genre.

Paradoxically, however, each of these "realistic" novelists, other then Sterne, failed in his attempt to erect character as a moral buffer against the suspense of a commercially driven world. Instead, they engaged, as Cruise demonstrates, in a process of historical revision that divided the past from the present through an erosion of teleologies and other forms of structured history.

Governing Consumption thus makes a telling and original contribution to the growing body of recent criticism on the form, discourse, and culture of the eighteenth-century English novel.

About the author:

James Cruise received his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. His research interests and publications have focused on the relationship between the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century English economy and the literature of the period, especially the novel. He is on the faculty at Northwestern State University of Louisiana.

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