Mobility in the English Novel from Defoe to Austen

April 2018
9 black and white, 3 line illustrations
233 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
Boydell Press
BISAC HIS037050, LIT004120

Mobility in the English Novel from Defoe to Austen

Chris Ewers

A lively exploration of the relation between the arrival of the novel, the literary form that uses life-as-a-journey as its master trope, and the transport revolution in eighteenth-century Britain.
In 1700 the fastest coach from London to Manchester took five days. By 1790 the development of the turnpike road system across England had reduced this figure to twenty-seven hours, and both the landscape and the ways in which people experienced it had been radically transformed.

This revolution in transport came at the same time as the emergence of the novel as a dominant literary form in Britain. In this highly original reading of some of the major novelists of the long eighteenth century - Defoe, Fielding, Smollett, Sterne and Austen - Chris Ewers shows how these two developments interacted. He argues that this reconfiguration of local geography and the new experience of moving through space at speed had a profound effect upon the narrative and form of the novel, leaving its mark on genre, prose technique, the depiction of class and gender relations and the way texts are structured. It is no accident, he concludes, that the arrival of the novel, the literary form that uses life-as-a-journey as a master trope, is roughly co-terminous with the revolution of internal transport in Britain.

CHRIS EWERS is a lecturer in Eighteenth Century Literature at the University of Exeter

Table of Contents

Introduction: Mobility and the eighteenth-century novel
Travelling by sea and land in Robinson Crusoe
Tom Jones and the epic of mobility
Smollett and the changing landscape of the ramble
Sterne and the invention of speed
Crash: Sentimental journeys and alternative mobilities
Northanger Abbey and the Austen's 'wandering story'


Mobility in the English Novel fills an important gap itself by demonstrating how 'the extended prose narratives of the 1700s mirror the extended range of spatial experience that accompanied the transport revolution' (p. 190). REVIEW OF ENGLISH STUDIES

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