Contributed by Christina Morin:
I am beginning to discover that the great thing about being part of a blog is that you can throw a question out and get a response almost immediately. In reply to Monday’s post on the eighteenth-century novel Christina Morin, whose research interests centre on late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth century Irish fiction, romantic literature, and the gothic novel, offered to share her knowledge of the genre with us and give us her top three recommendations.
Here are three of my favourites for budding eighteenth-century fiction fans: Charlotte Lennox, The Female Quixote (1752): An entertaining novel seriously engaged with the contemporary debate over how to define the developing novel, The Female Quixote focuses on the adventures and misadventures of its young and beautiful heroine, Arabella. As you might expect from Lennox’s title, Arabella is modelled after Cervantes’ Don Quixote and is, accordingly, immersed in a kind of fantasy world produced by her misguided reading of badly translated seventeenth-century French Romances. Believing her Romances to be realistic representations of the society in which she lives, Arabella is fundamentally unable to distinguish between fact and fiction. As a result, she dramatically misinterprets the people she encounters as well as her own experiences. The ensuing contrast between Arabella’s imaginary world and the real world provides a great deal of humour in the novel, as when, for instance, believing herself pursued by a man intent on raping her, Arabella calmly jumps into the Thames, much to the astonishment and consternation of friends and family. Such incidents are frequent in the novel and will definitely have you laughing out loud, even as the text enacts a very serious defence of the developing novel and issues a warning about the dangers of ‘useless’ reading (i.e. the Romance). Read more