Monday, June 22, 2015

Noted with Interest: Twilight of the Gothic (2)

I hope you'll indulge me as I continue taking notes on Crawford here.  These will be useful to me in the opening lectures of my upcoming romance classes, I suspect, and I doubt I'm the only one who'll find them helpful.  I should note that most of the sentences I'm quoting here have footnotes, and if you'd like me to post the sources he cites, I can add them in.

Crawford says that the "unravelling of the medieval romance tradition" occurred in several stages.
"The first element to disappear was its reliance upon the supernatural, which Cervantes mocked in Don Quixote (1605), reflecting the increasing scepticism regarding the reality of supernatural forces which was then taking root amongst the educated elites who read and wrote romances" (13)
The second stage has to do with the extraordinary nature of the characters and events.
"Seventeenth-century romance-writers still preferred their heroes and heroines to be larger-than-life figures living in far-off times and places, perfect in love, and superhuman in war; but, by the eighteenth century, tolerance for even this level of 'romantic' heroism had started to wane" (13).
In the 18th century we begin to see the clash between "romance" and "the novel," as the new, upstart form "defined itself against the romance, establishing its cultural credibility by eschewing the less naturalistic elements of the tradition which it aspired to replace" (13).  Thus,
"Early novels such as Defoe's Robinson Crusoe (1719) and Richardson's Pamela (1740) achieved lasting popularity and fame throughout Europe by recounting the loves and adventures, not of morally perfect aristocratic heroes and heroines living in a fantastical version of the past, but of flawed, ordinary people living in a recognizable, realistic present; and, in their wake, the genre of romance came increasingly to be dismissed as suitable only for the ignorant poor, who were thought too credulous to understand the difference between the pointless fantasies favoured by earlier, more superstitious centuries and the realistic, educational novels by which they had now come to be displaced" (13).
The novel also defines itself largely as a genre focused on love, says Crawford:  "to the extent that 'novel' and 'love story' became almost synonymous terms" (13) as novel after novel "told the story of one or more young people, and the various difficulties that they had to navigate on their way to (hopefully) securing a suitable marriage with the partner of their choice" (14).

In the novel, as opposed to the romance, the barriers between lovers were "social, emotional and psychological rather than physical" (14):  class difference rather than an earthquake, say, or parents rather than pirates.  "The eighteenth-century novel tradition [...] generally prioritized good sense and social responsibility over grand passion, and often went to some lengths to demonstrate that an overly 'romantic' view of the world, and of love, could lead young people -- especially young women -- very dangerously astray" (14).

1 comment:

  1. Does he mention the picaresque novel, which begins in the 16th century? Might complicate his dating a little, unless he thinks that anything mocking is similar to Don Quijote and different from a novel about "flawed, ordinary people living in a recognizable, realistic present".

    Is Pamela, as a character, really "ordinary"? It's a Cinderella story with a very slight veneer of realism.

    I know, I'm being very picky and it's pretty pointless to do that without having read the whole book.