Saturday, October 15, 2011
For Credit: Something Completely Different!
If you've been annoyed and frustrated by Tristram Shandy, The Female American will be something of a relief. It's another of those C18 novels that says exactly what it means and tells a coherent linear story. (For those enjoying Tristram Shandy and regretting that we can't forge ahead with it--and there are a few of you, right?--this abrupt shift may seem disruptive. Know that I do it advisedly. Shandy is sort of like pesto or pecan pie or bleu cheese--even for those who like it, one can quickly cross the line between enjoyment of just enough and revulsion at too much.
The Female American is, as you will see, something of a response to Robinson Crusoe. Unlike Robinson Crusoe, Pamela, and Tristram Shandy, it is profoundly non-canonical. Like Fantomina, it moldered unnoticed and ignored on the shelves of a few rare book libraries until the 1990s, when the fresh new wind of cultural studies blew the dust off it. Thus far, the Broadview edition I ordered for the course is the ONLY modern print edition of it available--and I believe it's been the first edition since the early 1800s. There is as yet little scholarship on it (as those of you signed up for secondary literature posts will discover!), but the novel is getting taught and discussed.
So what do you think: what are the reasons for resurrecting a forgotten text like this? Are they good reasons or not? A week on the syllabus devoted to a firmly noncanonical book like this one is a week that we're NOT spending on works that have stood the test of time: the novels of Fielding, Richardson, Defoe, Burney, Sterne (and those omitted from the syllabus altogether, like Swift and Smollet). Does it warrant the time we devote to it?
Try NOT to answer this question in the abstract--wait until you've done a little reading, so you have some textual (not just theoretical) basis for your ideas.
Deadline: Tuesday (10/18), start of class.
Posted by KW at 10:00 PM