Conference Abstracts | ASECS 2009

Returning to the Archive: The Journalism and Novels of Daniel Defoe and Eliza Haywood

Lauren Grant
University of Washington

Beginning with Ian Watt’s Rise of the Novel, histories of the novel commonly employ a narrative of progress to track the British novel’s development. Inevitably these teleological narratives emphasize the end result – for example, the novel’s successful representation of a liberal, domestic subject in Nancy Armstrong’s history, or the novel as a product that appeals to a “general reader,” entrenched in a developing “media culture” in William Warner’s narrative. While such studies have certainly provided us with invaluable critical lenses with which to read the rise of the novel, I would argue that a return to the archive is imperative for a deeper understanding of the novel’s fraught origins and its relationship to other literary forms.

The journalism of the early eighteenth-century is a particularly fruitful site for this sort of inquiry as journal authors spent a great deal of time delineating their work from that of novelists. A continually cited difference between the journal and novel is the journal’s moral superiority, yet while this opposition between journals and novels seems fairly characteristic for the time, I will interrogate the commonplace contrast between "instructive" journals and “loose" novels to reveal the interdependencies of these two forms. As much as journal authors insist that their work is distinct from that of novelists, both genres use similar rhetorical methods to reach similar aims in the early eighteenth century.

In this paper, I will examine the often times parasitic relationship between early eighteenth-century journalism and the novel by looking at two authors who published prolifically in both genres – Daniel Defoe and Eliza Haywood. I will focus my inquiry on Defoe’s The Review and Moll Flanders and Haywood’s early fictions and The Female Spectator (as time permits).

For my purposes I would like to examine The Review and The Female Spectator as examples of interactive journalism. Like The Spectator, portions of these journals operate on a “Dear Abby” premise; readers (albeit often fabricated readers) write in with a moral dilemma, and the author dispenses sage advice. Interestingly, a topic often returned to in these journals, that of female education and development, is also at the center of both authors’ early novels. Thus, beginning with this interactive journalism, I would like to explore the possibility of tracing a pattern, or an exchange of rhetorical methods between the journals and novels of these authors, using the topic of female education as an anchoring point. In the case of Defoe, the direction of influence moves cleanly from journal to novel, yet, for Haywood, who published her early fictions well before The Female Spectator, this does not hold true. Consequently, it seems (at least in Haywood’s case) that an active exchange of ideas, rhetorical strategies, and stylistic methods between journalism and novels may have continued well into the early 1750s, further complicating our notion of not only the “progression” of these authors’ works, but the eighteenth-century novel’s evolution as well.

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