Narrating Friendship and the British Novel, 1760-1830  book cover
1st Edition

Narrating Friendship and the British Novel, 1760-1830

ISBN 9780367346812
Published May 20, 2019 by Routledge
282 Pages

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Book Description

Friendship has always been a universal category of human relationships and an influential motif in literature, but it is rarely discussed as a theme in its own right. In her study of how friendship gives direction and shape to new ideas and novel strategies of plot, character formation, and style in the British novel from the 1760s to the 1830s, Katrin Berndt argues that friendship functions as a literary expression of philosophical values in a genre that explores the psychology and the interactions of the individual in modern society. In the literary historical period in which the novel became established as a modern genre, friend characters were omnipresent, reflecting enlightenment philosophy’s definition of friendship as a bond that civilized public and private interactions and was considered essential for the attainment of happiness. Berndt’s analyses of genre-defining novels by Frances Brooke, Mary Shelley, Sarah Scott, Helen Maria Williams, Charlotte Lennox, Walter Scott, Jane Austen, and Maria Edgeworth show that the significance of friendship and the increasing variety of novelistic forms and topics represent an overlooked dynamic in the novel’s literary history. Contributing to our understanding of the complex interplay of philosophical, socio-cultural and literary discourses that shaped British fiction in the later Hanoverian decades, Berndt’s book demonstrates that novels have conceived the modern individual not in opposition to, but in interaction with society, continuing Enlightenment debates about how to share the lives and the experiences of others.

Table of Contents

List of Contents


1 The Virtuousness of Conventions: Friendship and the Ethics of Fiction

1.1. Friendship Values, Friendship Virtues in Frances Brooke’s The History of Lady Julia Mandeville (1763)

1.2. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) and the Narcissistic Impotence of Romantic Friendship

2 Public or Private? Friendship and the Novel Sphere in Utopian and Sentimental Writing

2.1. A Utopian Conjunction? Philanthropic Design and Particular Friendship in Sarah Scott’s Millenium Hall (1762)

2.2. Helen Maria Williams’s Julia (1790) and the Paradigm of Active Sensibility in the Sentimental Novel

3 A Question of Perspective and Character: Friendship and Narrative Situation

3.1. ‘Excite me to Virtue’: Friendship as Reason and Purpose in Charlotte Lennox’s Euphemia (1790)

3.2. The Perceptive Pluralism of Friendship in Sir Walter Scott’s Redgauntlet (1824)

4 The Progress of the Plot: Epistemologies of Friendly Interventions

4.1. Not False, but Wrong? Friendly Interventions in Jane Austen’s Persuasion (1818)

4.2. Friendship, Truth, and the Generosity of Heart in Maria Edgeworth’s Helen (1834)

Conclusion: Friendship and the Novel Genre


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Katrin Berndt is Associate Professor of British and Anglophone Literatures and Cultures at the University of Bremen, Germany.