The Economy of Character
Novels, Market Culture, and the Business of Inner Meaning
Although the story of this shift is usually told in terms of the "rise of the individual," Deidre Shauna Lynch proposes an ingenious alternative interpretation. Elaborating a "pragmatics of character," Lynch shows how readers used transactions with characters to accommodate themselves to newly commercialized social relations. Searching for the inner meanings of characters allowed readers both to plumb their own inwardness and to distinguish themselves from others. In a culture of mass consumption, argues Lynch, possessing a belief in the inexpressible interior life of a character rendered one's property truly private.
Ranging from Defoe and Smollett to Burney and Austen, Lynch's account will interest students of the novel, literary historians, and anyone concerned with the inner workings of consumer culture and the history of emotions.
Introduction: Recognizing Characters
Pt. 1: The Economies of Characteristic Writing
1: Fleshing Out Characters
2: Fictions of Social Circulation, 1742-1782
Pt. 2: Inside Stories
3: "Round" Characters and Romantic-Period Reading Relations
4: Agoraphobia and Interiority in Frances Burney's Fiction
5: Jane Austen and the Social Machine
Conclusion: The Real Thing and the "Work" of Literature in Nineteenth-Century Culture
Modern Language Association: MLA-Prize for a First Book