Narrative Innovation and Incoherence

Ideology in Defoe, Goldsmith, Austen, Eliot, and Hemingway

Narrative Innovation and Incoherence

Book Pages: 216 Illustrations: Published: July 1992

Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Criticism

When the impulse toward innovation arises late in a writer's career, it is often accompanied by a sense of urgency, and the result, as Narrative Innovation and Incoherence demonstrates, raises important questions for literary theory. Michael M. Boardman considers this pressing struggle to find a new form as it appears in the later works of Defoe, Goldsmith, Austen, Eliot, and Hemingway. He analyzes how these authors react to new and compelling beliefs for which a previous way of writing is no longer adequate.
Urgent innovations, in this account, can only be understood as unique, individual responses to crises in belief. Taking as a point of departure French theorist Althusser's conviction that ideology is intelligible only through structure, Boardman searches for an explanation of both form and ideology not in Marxist concepts of base and superstructure but in the particular structure of an individual artist's writing career. Narrative ideology here becomes more complex than is generally assumed.
Theoretically informed yet avoiding essentializing explanations of narrative invention, Narrative Innovation and Incoherence offers unexpected insights into the multifaceted relations between form and belief. It will encourage serious students of the novel to reexamine the importance of poetics as a mediating factor in the means of production.


“[Boardman] has taken for his subject a relatively unexplored area: what happens to narrative structure when novelists decide to experiment, usually late in their careers, with tried and tested forms, in order to give shape and coherence to fresh insights and new perceptions? . . . Here, for the first time, is a comparative, generic study, looking at the last novels from the point of view of narrative theory. . . . At his best (as here), Boardman is a critic worth attending for his patience, good sense, and all-round clarity of vision.” — Chris Walsh , Notes and Queries

"Michael Boardman's book expands awareness of the logic of formal development in individual authors and comparatively of one authorial career to another. The result will be valuable to students of the several works and novelists dealt with as well as those concerned with the form in general and, indeed, with problems of genre in general." — Ralph Rader, University of California, Berkeley

"One of the most compelling features of this study of narrative innovation is its innovative thesis. To read five such dissimilar works in terms of the shared characteristic Boardman finds in them requires a certain amount of critical courage. He undertakes his bold task with intellectual integrity and presents his argument with assurance and tact. . . . Specialists in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century fiction, as well as students of the novel generally, should find this an interesting and important book." — Oliver W. Ferguson, Duke University


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Winner, 1991 Southern Books Competition, presented by Southeastern Library Association

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Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-1239-0
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