France, Margaret Eustace. Now for Something Completely Different: Non Sequitur Sequels in Daniel Defoe, Sarah Fielding and Sarah Scott. University of California, Davis, 2010.
My study examines the way eighteenth-century English writers employ their most celebrated texts as brand-like entities, a practice that declined as authors became more closely associated with texts in the cultural shift toward Romanticism. I shed light on how Daniel Defoe, Sarah Fielding, Sarah Scott, Samuel Richardson and Laurence Sterne rejected the nascent conventions of serial writing, instead using the sequel to bring a general readership to specialized texts. In the exchange between author and audience, these sequels are the equivalent of a non sequitur. Because so many of these non sequitur sequels are non-canonical texts by canonical authors, examining their reception along with their formal variations from the more popular texts reveals directions authors thought possible to undertake only under the cover of providing their readership with more of the same. The non sequitur sequel is thus a point of intersection between the histories of the sequel, the novel, and marketing, with authors building unlikely partnerships between texts, often confounding or alienating their readership in the process. These sequels reveal much about an author’s attempt to read her market, not to mention the problems inherent in an author repeating herself in a mode whose formal features have yet to be firmly established. The seemingly sideways steps taken by Defoe in following Robinson Crusoe with a series of moral essays (Serious Reflections on the Life of Robinson Crusoe) or Fielding in following the sentimental novel David Simple with a loosely connected series of letters (Familiar Letters Between the Principal Characters in David Simple) caused sequels like these to be left out of twentieth-century narratives of the rise of the novel. Reevaluating non sequitur sequels demonstrates the chasm between what these authors recognized as their works’ defining features and the values of a literary establishment raised on nineteenth-century novels.