Reviews of The Godwinian Novel

The Godwinian Novel
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‘No literary figure is more suitable for interdisciplinary study than William Godwin – biographer, historian, critic, dramatist, philosopher and novelist. Pamela Clemit’s monograph is a rigorous, persuasive, and very readable exposition of the work of Godwin and his closest disciples, his daughter Mary and the American, Charles Brockden Brown. In placing these figures in their intellectual context Dr. Clemit proves once again that a proper understanding of literature is only gained through skills and knowledge which surmount the artificial boundaries between academic subjects.’ (From Mark Garnett, The Charles Lamb Bulletin, NS 84 (Oct. 1993), 150-1.)

‘Pamela Clemit’s lucid study .… In Clemit’s view, Caleb Williams released the Gothic novel from the eighteenth-century courtship plot, making it available for development by a “Godwinian School” composed of Charles Brockden Brown, Mary Shelley and Bulwer Lytton. Ranging through the whole body of Godwin’s fiction, Clemit argues that the subjective narrative technique in Godwin’s later historical novels allowed him to present historical pressures on the individual with an unparalleled intensity…. Clemit’s appreciation of the contemporary importance of the Philadelphian novelist [Charles Brockden Brown] is well overdue.’ (From Nigel Leask, Times Literary Supplement, 19 Nov. 1993, 19-20.)

‘Pamela Clemit convincingly makes her case. She establishes Brown and Shelley as novelists best thought of as belonging to the fictional school established by Mary Shelley’s father.… Her second attempt is to effect a radical redirection of the current of Mary Shelley studies. The second achievement may well prove more influential than the first.… Her readings of Frankenstein and The Last Man have the great virtue of insisting on the public resonance of both novels. She makes large claims, but they are well supported. If this book has the influence it deserves, I can look forward to reading a very different set of essays on Frankenstein next year.’ (From Richard Cronin, Notes and Queries, 41: 2 (June 1994), 251-2.)

‘In this serious and important study, Pamela Clemit offers, for the first time, a view of the novels of William Godwin (1756-1836), Charles Brockden Brown (1771-1810), and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (1797-1851) as a historically specific group.… Clemit writes with authority and assurance, conveying her subtle and perceptive insights with lucid clarity. Her annotations are impressively full and wide-ranging. This is an important book for any serious scholar of the history of ideas, as well as for those interested in the study of the fiction of the Romantic period.’ (From Harriet Devine Jump, Review of English Studies, 46: 184 (1995), 591-2.)

‘The question “Was there a Godwin school?” is not the primary focus of this book, but one of the many virtues of Pamela Clemit’s intelligent study is that we are, by the end, left in little doubt about the answer. This is a sure and useful book, unfussily written, and admirably referenced. It is informative and convincing, and has a strong sense of literary form, as well as an enviable grasp of the currents of though over half a century. As such, Clemit makes a commendable contribution to our knowledge and understanding both of the Godwin circle and of the revolutionary period.’ (From Allan Ingram, Yearbook of English Studies, 25 (1995).)

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