Novel Addiction: Consuming Popular Novels in Eighteenth-century Britain
This dissertation explores the ways in which British popular novels of the eighteenth century functioned as commodities. "Novel Addiction", the title of this dissertation has a double meaning: Addiction was a new conceptual framework developed during the eighteenth century in order to manage the increasing anxiety brought upon the culture of consumption, and the novel, one of the most popular commodities of the same period, was addictive. Both as successful commodities and efficient cultural agents, popular novels that were categorized as the sentimental or the gothic participated in the process of creating and disseminating models of addiction that warranted perpetual discipline. However, this discipline does not aim at preventing or eliminating addiction. It rather manages addiction as "habit" in a way that guarantees proliferation of the market economy. By employing the framework of addiction, I intend to reconfigure the role of the novel in the construction of individual and collective models of consumption-oriented subjectivity.
The first chapter begins with Eliza Haywood's Present for Women Addicted to Drinking where the author proposes novel-reading as the best cure for alcohol addiction, which allows me to explore a parallel between the phenomenon called the "gin craze" and the proliferation of print commodities. The second and third chapter discuss the sentimental novel and the gothic novel respectively focusing on the characteristics of each genre that make them addictive. The fourth and final chapter discusses Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey and Sense and Sensibility, which address and attempt to manage "novel addiction," a problem posed by the popular novels of her contemporaries.
History of the Novel
The gothic novel
The sentimental novel
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