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Born Yesterday

Inexperience and the Early Realist Novel

Stephanie Insley Hershinow

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The early novel was not the coming-of-age story we know today—eighteenth-century adolescent protagonists remained in a constant state of arrested development, never truly maturing.

Between the emergence of the realist novel in the early eighteenth century and the novel's subsequent alignment with self-improvement a century later lies a significant moment when novelistic characters were unlikely to mature in any meaningful way. That adolescent protagonists poised on the cusp of adulthood resisted a headlong tumble into maturity through the workings of plot reveals a curious literary and...

The early novel was not the coming-of-age story we know today—eighteenth-century adolescent protagonists remained in a constant state of arrested development, never truly maturing.

Between the emergence of the realist novel in the early eighteenth century and the novel's subsequent alignment with self-improvement a century later lies a significant moment when novelistic characters were unlikely to mature in any meaningful way. That adolescent protagonists poised on the cusp of adulthood resisted a headlong tumble into maturity through the workings of plot reveals a curious literary and philosophical counter-tradition in the history of the novel. Stephanie Insley Hershinow's Born Yesterday shows how the archetype of the early realist novice reveals literary character tout court.

Through new readings of canonical novels by Samuel Richardson, Henry Fielding, Horace Walpole, Ann Radcliffe, Frances Burney, and Jane Austen, Hershinow severs the too-easy tie between novelistic form and character formation, a conflation, she argues, of Bild with Bildung. A pop-culture-infused epilogue illustrates the influence of the eighteenth-century novice, as embodied by Austen's Emma, in the 1995 film Clueless, as well as in dystopian YA works like The Hunger Games.

Drawing on bold close readings, Born Yesterday alters the landscape of literary historical eighteenth-century studies and challenges some of novel theory's most well-worn assumptions.

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Reviews

Hershinow makes a compelling claim that the character of the novice represents a high point in the art of the novel. What makes her argument compelling is how she inhabits the novels at the level of the sentence, taking her vocabulary from the novelists.

Stephanie Hershinow offers a compelling counterargument that casts adolescent protagonists or "no-vices" who do not change as a "central, affirmative component of the novelproject" in this period.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction. Entering the World
1. Clarissa's Conjectural History: The Novel and the Novice
2. When Experience Matters (and When It Doesn't): Tom Jones and the Rake's Regress
3. Simple

Acknowledgments
Introduction. Entering the World
1. Clarissa's Conjectural History: The Novel and the Novice
2. When Experience Matters (and When It Doesn't): Tom Jones and the Rake's Regress
3. Simple and Sublime: The Otherworldly of Ann Radcliffe's Gothic
4. Starting from Scratch: Frances Burney and the Appeals of Inexperience
Epilogue. Emma's Dystopia
Notes
Index

Author Bio