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Frances Burney and Narrative Prior to Ideology

Brian McCrea

Frances Burney and Narrative Prior to Ideology works between Burney’s Journals and Letters and her fiction more thoroughly than any study of her in the past twenty-five years. By doing so, it offers significant reinterpretations of Burney’s four novels: Evelina, Cecilia, Camilla, and The Wanderer. It describes Burney’s eluding the major modern–isms through which critics have tried to read her: Feminism (with its “gendering” of beauty and reversal of gender roles); Capitalism and its Marxist critique (here the details of Burney’s housekeeping become important); Professionalism (as a response to status inconsistency and class conflict); and Ian Watt’s “Formal Realism” (Burney perhaps saved the novel from a sharp decline it suffered in the 1770s, even as she tried to distance herself from the genre).

Burney’s most successful writing appeared before the coining of “ideology.” But her standing “prior to ideology” is not a matter of chronological accident. Rather, she quietly but forcefully resisted shared explanations—domesticity as model for household management, debt as basis for family finance, professional status as a means to social confidence, the novel as the dominant literary genre—that became popular during her long and eventful life.

Frederic Jameson has described Paul de Man, “in private conversation,” claiming, “Marxism . . . has no way of understanding the eighteenth century.”
Frances Burney and Narrative Prior to Ideology conjoins Burney’s “eighteenth-centuryness” with her modernity.
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University Press Copublishing Division / University of Delaware Press
Pages: 234Size: 6 1/4 x 9 3/8
978-1-61149-481-5 • Hardback • September 2013 • $79.00 • (£52.95)
978-1-61149-574-4 • Paperback • April 2015 • $39.99 • (£24.95)
978-1-61149-482-2 • eBook • September 2013 • $39.99 • (£24.95)
Brian McCrea is professor emeritus of English at the University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida and Visiting Lecturer in English at Flagler College, St. Augustine, Florida.


A Note on Tests
CHAPTER 1: Dying To Be Handsome: Or Why We Don't Know What Burney's Heroines Look Like
CHAPTER 2: Frances Burney and Professional Men: From Dr. Lyster to Mr. Naird, The Surgeon

CHAPTER 3: No Jacobins Here: Burney's Perplexing (Non) Politics
CHAPTER 4: “My Chevalier Jardinier": Courtship and Marriage After Patriarchy and Before Domesticity
CHAPTER 5: Resisting the "Fascination of Egotism": Burney and Formal Realism


About the Author
This quirky, personal, deeply satisfying book seeks to rescue Burney from the fashionable critical '-isms' that have recently clouded, rather than elucidated, her accomplishment. Though McCrea says he drew inspiration from Frederick Crew's Postmodern Pooh (2001), McCrea's volume is far more historically nuanced than such a comparison suggests. McCrea observes that Burney's novels were written outside the modern critical straitjacket through which scholars have interpreted her. Perhaps the best chapter is 'No Jacobins Here: Burney's Perplexing (Non)Politics.' Contemporary critics, e.g., Margaret Doody (who argued that 'the personal is political'), have presumed that Burney's novels reinforce a politics that aligns with their tastes, namely, the Jacobinism of those who hoped that French Revolutionary ideals would spread to England. Using Burney's nonfictional writings, McCrea convincingly argues that Burney's politics were exactly the opposite. He observes that to Burney, 'the personal is the personal' and that this resistance to ideology helps explain the failure of Burney's last novel, The Wanderer. McCrea is equally good on the way Burney does not fit into an Ian-Watt-like picture of 'the rise of the novel.' Criticism written against the grain has rarely been so accessible or so much fun. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty.

Parisian’s impressive study provides a comprehensive account of Cecilia in print, and its depictions of the novel’s nineteenth-century reception open new avenues in Burney scholarship. Saggini’s is a thoughtful meditation on theatrical elements in Burney’s fiction that emphasizes the performative, a growing subfield in Burney studies. . . .[McCrea] excavates a number of gems unfamiliar to most Burney scholars.
Eighteenth-Century Fiction

• Winner, CHOICE Outstanding Academic Titles (2014)