Defoe's Major Fiction: Accounting for the Self

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9781611496130: Defoe's Major Fiction: Accounting for the Self
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Napier's study of Daniel Defoe is literary criticism at its best: attentive to text, informed (but not dominated) by theory, written in lucid-indeed lyrical-prose. Napier begins with Defoe's complicated invocations of genre in the major fiction. Spiritual autobiography jockeys for interpretive dominance with picaresque fiction in Robinson Crusoe; criminal biography wars with conduct literature for narrative control of Moll Flanders and Roxana. Such generic instability demonstrates the difficulty of telling a story of self, a point further emphasized by accounts that are changed in the retelling or that never get fully told in the first place. From the first chapter's introduction of the problem of the narrative (and narrating) self, Napier moves on to chapters centered on dominant versions of the self in Defoe: the performing self, the compulsive self, the divided self. Each chapter provides ample evidence that the problematic of accounting for the self in these various ways is evident in all of Defoe's major fiction, though, predictably, Robinson Crusoe, Moll Flanders, and Roxana receive the most detailed attention. Napier's elegant, comprehensive, judicious study fully convinces that accounting for the self is a central concern of Defoe's major fiction. Summing Up: Essential. Lower-division undergraduates and above. * CHOICE * Throughout this study, Napier's knowledge of scholarship on Defoe's major fictions and her breadth of commentary on novel theory as it relates to narration and the construction of the self are as thorough asthey are comprehensive.... Ultimately her argument is strong and clear... [T]his work is a valuable contribution to the study of Defoe's major fiction. * Eighteenth-Century Fiction *

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This book examines the concern with narrativity and self-construction in Defoe's first-person fictional narratives. Arguing that recent materialist approaches to Defoe are insufficiently attentive to the dominant preoccupations of his fictional oeuvre, which center on issues of moral accountability and self-definition, it addresses the need to examine more sharply Defoe's novelistic achievement in the realm of character and narration and those aesthetic and ethical experiments that constitute his innovative achievements in the novel form.

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