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Incest and the English Novel, 1684-1814

Ellen Pollak

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From the inadvertent marriage of a brother and sister in Daniel Defoe's Moll Flanders to the sexually charged intrafamilial relationships in Jane Austen's Mansfield Park, a remarkable number of English novels written between 1684 and 1814 predicate their plots on the tabooed possibility of incest. In the first full-length study to examine the striking prevalence of such plots in early English novels, Ellen Pollak focuses on literary representations of actual, averted, or imagined incest in works by Aphra Behn, Henry Fielding, and others. Pollakā€¦

Outstanding Academic Title, Choice Magazine

From the inadvertent marriage of a brother and sister in Daniel Defoe's Moll Flanders to the sexually charged intrafamilial relationships in Jane Austen's Mansfield Park, a remarkable number of English novels written between 1684 and 1814 predicate their plots on the tabooed possibility of incest. In the first full-length study to examine the striking prevalence of such plots in early English novels, Ellen Pollak focuses on literary representations of actual, averted, or imagined incest in works by Aphra Behn, Henry Fielding, and others. Pollak situates her readings in the context of changes in class and kinship organization that were taking place in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and in the context of the accompanying emergence of modern cultural ideologies and representational forms. She argues that the historical realignment of the categories of class, kinship, and representation that took place with the shift from patriarchal to egalitarian models of familial order marked a transformative moment in the cultural construction of incest. Considering incest narratives in the light of social and discursive transformations and of contemporary debates surrounding incest and its definition in the domains of religion, moral philosophy, and the law, Incest and the English Novel shows how stories about incest served as sites for both the production and the critique of modern notions of gender and sexuality.

Pollak's illuminating readings will engage all serious students of the novel, especially those interested in how questions of gender and sexuality relate to narrative. Firmly establishing the importance of the topic for understanding eighteenth-century English literature and culture, her work is bound to spur further discussion of the significance of incest discourses in the early modern period and beyond.

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Incest and the English Novel, 1684-1814

Ellen Pollak

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Reviews

Reviews

In this imaginative and provocative study, the relationship between gender, incest and fiction is explored through a series of cultural, materialist and psychoanalytic readings of texts.

Pollak's remarkable book has qualities typical of the best scholarly criticism: a thorough and assured grasp of the history and current discussions of the topic; the capacity to forcefully assert its own place in those discussions; and elegant movement between close readings and broader implications.

Pollak writes with clarity, conviction, and precision; she has authored a brilliant book, and literary studies will be richer for it.

Pollak's book is well worth reading for its illuminating analyses of individual novels; but it also does modern women a real service by using these close readings to denaturalize our false, present-day assumptions about incest.

Pollak succeeds in reading dialectically the discourse of sex, race, and class in the eighteenth-century novel, skillfully avoiding the traps of reifying categories.

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About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
280
ISBN
9780801872044
Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Chapter 1. Introduction: Modernity, Incest, and Eighteenth-Century Narrative
Chapter 2. Incest and Its Contingencies: Debates in Britain from the Reformation through the Eighteenth

Acknowledgments
Chapter 1. Introduction: Modernity, Incest, and Eighteenth-Century Narrative
Chapter 2. Incest and Its Contingencies: Debates in Britain from the Reformation through the Eighteenth Century
Chapter 3. Beyond Incest: Gender and the Politics of Transgression in Aphra Behn's Love Letters between a Nobleman and his Sister
Chapter 4. Guarding the Succession of the (E)state: Incest and the Dangers of Representation in the Delarivier Manley's The New Atalantis
Chapter 5. Moll Flanders, Incest, and the Structure of Exchange
Chapter 6. Ingesting Incest: Maternity, Textuality, and the Problem of Origins
Chapter 7. Incest and Liberty: Mansfield Park
Notes
Bibliography
Index

Author Bio
Featured Contributor

Ellen Pollak, Ph.D.

Ellen Pollak teaches feminist theory and eighteenth-century literature and culture in the English department at Michigan State University.