By Kent Puckett
What--other than embarrassment--could one wish to realize from lengthy publicity to the social mistake? Why imagine a lot approximately what many would prefer just to disregard? undesirable shape argues that no matter what its awkwardness, the social mistake--the blunder, the gaffe, the pretend pas-is a determine of serious significance to the nineteenth-century novel. With major new readings of a few nineteenth-century works--such as Eliot's Middlemarch, Flaubert's Madame Bovary, and James's The Princess Casamassima--Kent Puckett unearths how the unconventional achieves its coherence due to minor error that novels either symbolize and make. whereas uncovering the nineteenth-century novel's continual social and structural reliance at the non-catastrophic mistake--eating peas together with your knife, asserting the inaccurate factor, overdressing--this energetic examine demonstrates that the novel's as soon as substantial cultural authority is dependent upon what we would another way ponder as that authority's contrary: a jittery, apprehensive, obsessive realization to the error of others that's its personal form of undesirable shape. taking a look at final past the radical, Puckett concludes with a examining of Jean Renoir's vintage movie, the principles of the sport, as a way to reflect on the comparable fates of bourgeois sociability, the vintage realist novel, and the social mistake. Drawing on sociology, psychoanalysis, narrative concept, and the period's huge literature on etiquette, Puckett demonstrates that the nineteenth-century novel satirically depends upon undesirable shape to be able to safe its personal narrative shape. undesirable shape makes the case for the serious function that making errors performs within the nineteenth-century novel.
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Additional info for Bad Form: Social Mistakes and the Nineteenth-Century Novel
Eric Dunning, Johan Goudsblom, and Stephen Mennel, trans. Edmund Jephcott (Oxford: Blackwell, 1994), 72–85. 13. Curtin, “A Question of Manners,” 411. bad form The etiquette book was characterized by its distinct lack of a distinct ethical end. ” Where bad form or its equivalent in another kind of advice book might measure a potentially reducible distance between one’s behavior and a ﬁxed point of perfection (even likeness to Christ, hard as it might be to achieve, is a ﬁxed ideal), the indeﬁnite deferral that characterizes fashion makes distance, anxiety, and the threat of losing one’s edge permanent features of one’s relation to the social world.
Snobbery is in these terms a relation: one can only be a snob with other people. And, as with Mozley, the only way out of snobbery is to achieve the kind of diﬀerence-dumb self-identity that she reserves for the sovereign position; the advice, always harder to follow than to give, is just to be yourself. There is, however, an important diﬀerence between Thackeray and Mozley: Thackeray does not grant any one ﬁgure sovereign self-identity within his social order. Where Mozely maintains the sovereign position of king as a position diﬀerent in kind from every other, Thackeray collapses the social and structural diﬀerence between the king and his subjects.
HOTCHKISS: Oh, so do I, frequently. But there are ways of doing these things. Billiter’s way was unmistakable. In switching out the familiar “eating peas with your knife” in favor of the more ridiculous because more obviously benign “eating rice pudding with your spoon,” Shaw points both to the fact that it is the snob’s insight about modernity that one tautologically asserted minor diﬀerence is as good as another and to the logic of substitution and repetition native to etiquette that I have been describing.
Bad Form: Social Mistakes and the Nineteenth-Century Novel by Kent Puckett