Orla Smyth
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Fashioning fictional selves from French sources
Eliza Haywood’s Love in Excess
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Over the course of the seventeenth century, French thought developed a rich and finely textured language of the self. English writers of turn-of-the-century England, and most significantly women, drew on that language in their imitations of the French ‘nouveaux romans’ of the last three decades of the seventeenth century. This provenance explains key features of the representation of self, and of the individual’s interaction with others, that we find in this fiction: the self of self-interest, the empire of passion over reason and the consequent torments only truly experienced by ‘nobler spirits’, and the importance of affective states which escape the perception of the perceiving subject. This chapter demonstrates the importance of this French language and perception of the self to an understanding of the early novelists in a close reading of Eliza Haywood’s Love in Excess (1719).

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