vendredi 9 décembre 2011

Nina Baym, NOVELS, READERS, AND REVIEWERS, Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 1984, 287 pages

In this context, [William Gilmore] Simm's distinction in the preface to a revised version of The Yemassee in 1853 and Hawthorne's in his preface to The House of the Seven Gables in 1851 should probably be seen as two more attempts (and perhaps less disinterested ones than those appearing in the journals) ti fix terms in flux at the time. That Hawthorne pretended to be using a distinction known to all his readers [...] has permitted later students to believe - as Hawthorne no dougt intended - that a fixed definition was in use at the time, and that people knew that some novels were romances and some were novels and also knew which were which. If, indeed, the romance was thought to be more popular, we have an explanation for his strategy, as well as for Simm's attempt to renew his reputation by affixing the term to an early book.
To complicate matters still further, the literary discourse on romance and novels, though at one extreme characterized by total interchangeability of the terms and at the other by total definitional anarchy, also contains two "mainstream" definitions. That is, in a preponderance of essays and reviews where one can see an operative distinction, one or the other of these usages obtains. One of these definitions incorporates a history of fiction (is diachronic) while the other schematizes existing fiction (is synchronic). In the diachronic mode of writing, the novel is seen as a modern form of romance, which is the overform, the generic name for narrative fiction over time. In the synchronic mode, the generic name for narrative fiction is the novel, and the romance is one type of the genre. If we put these two modes together we come up with a discourse where romance is a type of novel, which is in turn a modern type of romance. No doubt a great deal of confusion can be attributed to this merging of two different approaches to fiction.

p. 231.

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