Rethinking the Secular Origins of the Novel: The Bible in English Fiction 1678–1767

Rethinking the Secular Origins of the Novel: The Bible in English Fiction 1678–1767

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Kevin Seidel
Cambridge University Press, 3/25/2021
EAN 9781108491037, ISBN10: 1108491030

Hardcover, 280 pages, 22.9 x 15.2 x 2.1 cm
Language: English
Originally published in English

Literary histories of the novel tend to assume that religion naturally gives way to secularism, with the novel usurping the Bible after the Enlightenment. This book challenges that teleological conception of literary history by focusing on scenes in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century fiction where the Bible appears as a physical object. Situating those scenes in wider circuits of biblical criticism, Bible printing, and devotional reading, Seidel cogently demonstrates that such scenes reveal a great deal about the artistic ambitions of the novels themselves and point to the different ways those novels reconfigured their readers' relationships to the secular world. With insightful readings of the appearance of the Bible as a physical object in fiction by John Bunyan, Daniel Defoe, Samuel Richardson, Sarah Scott, Frances Sheridan, and Laurence Sterne, this book contends that the English novel rises with the English Bible, not after it.

Part I. Rethinking the Secular at the Origins of the English Novel
1. A secular for literary studies
2. The Bible, the novel, and the veneration of culture
Part II. Versions of Biblical Authority
3. Sanctifying commodity
the English Bible trade around the Atlantic, 1660–1799
4. Prop of the state
biblical criticism and the forensic authority of the Bible
5. Object of intimacy
the devotional uses of the eighteenth-century Bible
Part III. Uses of Scripture for Fiction
6. Traveling papers
Pilgrim's Progress and the book
7. Being surprised by providence
Robinson Crusoe as Defoe's theory of fiction
8. Resilient to narrative
Clarissa after reading
9. Breaking down shame
narrating trauma and repair in Tristram Shandy.