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Criminality and Narrative in Eighteenth-Century England

Beyond the Law

Hal Gladfelder

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Stories of transgression–Gilgamesh, Prometheus, Oedipus, Eve—may be integral to every culture's narrative imaginings of its own origins, but such stories assumed different meanings with the burgeoning interest in modern histories of crime and punishment in the later decades of the seventeenth century. In Criminality and Narrative in Eighteenth-Century England, Hal Gladfelder shows how the trial report, providence book, criminal biography, and gallows speech came into new commercial prominence and brought into focus what was most disturbing, and most exciting, about contemporary experience…

Stories of transgression–Gilgamesh, Prometheus, Oedipus, Eve—may be integral to every culture's narrative imaginings of its own origins, but such stories assumed different meanings with the burgeoning interest in modern histories of crime and punishment in the later decades of the seventeenth century. In Criminality and Narrative in Eighteenth-Century England, Hal Gladfelder shows how the trial report, providence book, criminal biography, and gallows speech came into new commercial prominence and brought into focus what was most disturbing, and most exciting, about contemporary experience. These narratives of violence, theft, disruptive sexuality, and rebellion compelled their readers to sort through fragmentary or contested evidence, anticipating the openness to discordant meanings and discrepant points of view which characterizes the later fictions of Defoe and Fielding.

Beginning with the various genres of crime narrative, Gladfelder maps a complex network of discourses that collectively embodied the range of responses to the transgressive at the turn of the eighteenth century. In the book's second and third parts, he demonstrates how the discourses of criminality became enmeshed with emerging novelistic conceptions of character and narrative form. With special attention to Colonel Jack, Moll Flanders, and Roxana, Gladfelder argues that Defoe's narratives concentrate on the forces that shape identity, especially under conditions of outlawry, social dislocation, and urban poverty. He next considers Fielding's double career as author and magistrate, analyzing the interaction between his fiction and such texts as the aggressively polemical Enquiry into the Causes of the Late Increase in Robbers and his eyewitness accounts of the sensational Canning and Penlez cases. Finally, Gladfelder turns to Godwin's Caleb Williams, Wollstonecraft's Maria, and Inchbald's Nature and Art to reveal the degree to which criminal narrative, by the end of the eighteenth century, had become a necessary vehicle for articulating fundamental cultural anxieties and longings. Crime narratives, he argues, vividly embody the struggles of individuals to define their place in the suddenly unfamiliar world of modernity.

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Criminality and Narrative in Eighteenth-Century England

Hal Gladfelder

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Reviews

Reviews

It is clearly written and considers texts over a wide historical range.

Gladfelder carries through his project in a series of incisive against-the-grain readings.

An essential analysis of the criminal narratives that became part of the 18th-century English reader's experiences and their influence upon the novels that we continue to read.

Smart, thorough, and provocative... A unique and valuable contribution to the studies of crime literature and the eighteenth-century novel.

This is a fresh and stimulating, often original, deeply intelligent, and almost completely persuasive study.

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About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
296
ISBN
9780801875656
Table of Contents

Introduction
Part I: CRIMINAL REPRESENTATIONS
Chapter 1: Constructing the Underworld: Criminal Anatomies
Chapter 2: Picaresque and Providential Fictions
Chapter 3: Crime Reports and Gallows Writing
Chapter

Introduction
Part I: CRIMINAL REPRESENTATIONS
Chapter 1: Constructing the Underworld: Criminal Anatomies
Chapter 2: Picaresque and Providential Fictions
Chapter 3: Crime Reports and Gallows Writing
Chapter 4: Criminal Trials: Testimony and Narrative Realism
Chapter 5: Criminal Biographies: The Singular and the Exemplary
Part II: CRIME AND IDENTITY: DEFOE IN THE 1720s
Chapter 6: Colonel Jack's Childhood
Chapter 7: Moll Flanders and Her Confederates
Chapter 8: Guilt and the Reader of Roxana
Part III: THE JUDGE AND THE AUTHOR: FIELDING THE MIDCENTURY
Chapter 9: The Politics and Poetics of Crime and Punishment
Chapter 10: Fielding as Magistrate: The Canning and Penlez Cases
Chapter 11: Amelia: Imprisonment and Transgression
Epilogue: English Radicalism and the Literature of Crime
Notes
Bibliography
Index

Author Bio
Featured Contributor

Hal Gladfelder, Ph.D.

Hal Gladfelder is a senior lecturer of English and American studies at the University of Manchester, editor of John Cleland’s Memoirs of a Coxcomb, and author of Criminality and Narrative in Eighteenth-Century England: Beyond the Law, also published by Johns Hopkins.