In Acts of Modernity, David Buchanan reads nineteenth-century historical novels from Scotland, America, France, and Canada as instances of modern discourse reflective of community concerns and methods that were transatlantic in scope. Following on revolutionary events at home and abroad, the unique combination of history and romance initiated by Walter Scott’s Waverley (1814) furthered interest in the transition to and depiction of the nation-state. Established and lesser-known novelists reinterpreted the genre to describe the impact of modernization and to propose coping mechanisms, according to interests and circumstances. Besides analysis of the chronotopic representation of modernity within and between national contexts, Buchanan considers how remediation enabled diverse communities to encounter popular historical novels in upmarket and downmarket forms over the course of the century. He pays attention to the way communication practices are embedded within and constitutive of the social lives of readers, and more specifically, to how cultural producers adapted the historical novel to dynamic communication situations. In these ways, Acts of Modernity investigates how the historical novel was repeatedly reinvented to effectively communicate the consequences of modernity as problem-solutions of relevance to people on both sides of the Atlantic.
Table of Contents
Acknowledgements Introduction 1. Meaning-making: a history of reading practices 2. Heart of the matter: consequences of modernity in Clan Albin and Tales of My Landlord 3. Nation of readers: chapbook versions of The Heart of Mid-Lothian 4. How the West was one: historification from Waverley to The Pathfinder 5. Home and away: Leatherstocking reinvented in America and France 6. "Spiders in a pot": harnessing juggernaut in Le père Goriot 7. Industrial productions: from editions populaires to a people’s history 8. Community lessons: Canadian tales of national progress 9. History in action: dramatizations at Montréal, Paris, New York, and London Conclusion: working the historical novel Bibliography Index
David Buchanan is a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of English and Film Studies at the University of Alberta, a tutor in the Centre for Humanities at Athabasca University, and a sessional instructor of English in the Department of Literature and Language at Concordia University of Edmonton.