39 minutes | Jun 2, 2021

Jordan A. Stein, "When Novels Were Books" (Harvard UP, 2020)

For most of the eighteenth century, the format, size, and price of the earliest novels meant that they would have been sold and bought alongside Protestant religious texts. In When Novels Were Books (Harvard UP, 2020) Jordan Alexander Stein brings the insights of book history into conversation with literary criticism. He explores the antecedents that stretch the story of the novel all the way to the early seventeenth century. The norms of character representation that emerged in Protestant conversion narratives were picked up by the earliest proto-novels. Spiritual and literary rhetorical forms, book trade markets, and networks of readers mingled for much of the novel's eighteenth-century development. The material features of novels as books opens new vistas for literary studies and the historiography of the rise of the Anglophone novel. This is a must read for those interested in book history, literary studies, or book culture in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Ryan David Shelton (@ryoldfashioned) is a social historian of British and American Protestantism and a PhD researcher at Queen’s University Belfast.

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