More than half a century after Ian Watt's The Rise of the Novel, scholarship on the early novel continues to pose the kinds of epistemological and sociological questions that Watt brought to the historical study of fiction. So accepted, and dissected, is the belief in the related rise of the novel and the emergence of the modern individual that the modest shift Brian Michael Norton undertakes in his new study comes as a breath of fresh air. Fiction and the Philosophy of Happiness: Ethical Inquiries in the Age of Enlightenment is an admirably focused monograph that opens up new expanses of critical terrain by simply shifting our gaze from epistemology to ethics. Examining narrative fictions by Laurence Sterne, Denis Diderot, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, William Godwin, and Mary Hays, Norton shows how even the most conspicuous explorations of selfhood and perception pose fundamentally...
jason solinger is an associate professor of English at the University of Mississippi. He is the author of Becoming the Gentleman: British Literature and the Invention of Modern Masculinity and is currently writing a book on literary insularity.
Jason Solinger; Ethical Pleasures. Novel 1 August 2015; 48 (2): 286–288. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00295132-2882713
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