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The Self and It: Novel Objects in Eighteenth-Century England [Hardcover]

Julie Park

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Book Description

October 21, 2009 0804756961 978-0804756969
Objects we traditionally regard as "mere" imitations of the human—dolls, automata, puppets—proliferated in eighteenth-century England's rapidly expanding market culture. During the same period, there arose a literary genre called "the novel" that turned the experience of life into a narrated object of psychological plausibility. Park makes a bold intervention in histories of the rise of the novel by arguing that the material objects abounding in eighteenth-century England's consumer markets worked in conjunction with the novel, itself a commodity fetish, as vital tools for fashioning the modern self. As it constructs a history for the psychology of objects, The Self and It revises a story that others have viewed as originating later: in an age of Enlightenment, things have the power to move, affect people's lives, and most of all, enable a fictional genre of selfhood. The book demonstrates just how much the modern psyche—and its thrilling projections of "artificial life"—derive from the formation of the early novel, and the reciprocal activity between made things and invented identities that underlie it.

Editorial Reviews


"Park imbues her eighteenth-century materials and the field of conversation around them with much needed savvy and imagination."—Timothy Campbell, Modern Philology

"Moving fluidly from literary texts to material culture, to Freudian theory, and back again, Park offers a lively and refreshing challenge to more hidebound brands of historicist scholarship . . . [The Self and It offers] a battery of clever readings, provocative conjectures, surprising juxtapositions, and unexpected aperçus that will galvanize scholars and students for some time to come."—Mark Blackwell, Eighteenth-Century Life

"The Self and It is a dense, complex and ingenious book . . . Park's book represents a significant contribution to our understanding of the eighteenth century and the novel."—Nicholas Hudson, Studies in the Novel

"[A] clever and exuberant study...Park's book is a brilliant excavation of eighteenth-century consumer culture in all its exoticism and excess, and she evokes the extravagance of fashion and leisure in the period with infectious relish."—Thomas Keymer, Times Literary Supplement

"Many of us have been longing for a book like The Self and It. With wit and style, and drawing on inventive archival research, Julie Park here finds a novel and fascinating way of telling the story of modern gendered subjectivity. She shows how often this story has overlapped with the history of our negotiations with the object world of consumer capitalism, with its proliferating novelties and its counterfeits of the life-like. Here we have a shiny new account of the eighteenth-century fiction's novel ways of giving life to imaginary beings: an account that shows how often the novel in the course of its mimetic project collaborated with material culture." —Deidre Lynch, University of Toronto

About the Author

Julie Park is Assistant Professor of English at Vassar College. She was formerly an editor of Eighteenth-Century Fiction.

Product Details

More About the Author

Julie Park is an assistant professor at Vassar College. She was born in Newburgh, NY and grew up in Mechanicsburg, PA. Before coming to Vassar, she was an assistant professor at McMaster University and co-editor of _Eighteenth-Century Fiction_ where she organized, co-edited and wrote the introduction for a special issue on "War" (which won the Council of Learned Journal's runner-up prize for best special issue in 2008) and edited a special issue on "Interiors." She is now working on a special issue for _Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation_ called "The Rise of the Novel: Redux," as well as a book project on interiority and domestic space called _Interior Designs: Containing Self-Consciousness in Eighteenth-Century England_.

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