Nation and Novel is a literary history of the English novel and its distinctive, often subversive contribution to ideas of nationhood. In it I have concentrated for the most part on the major novelists, those whose writings have been most influential and have attracted a lasting and international readership. I have engaged in more detailed textual interpretation than is usual in literary history, pursuing the approach to the nature of the novel form and its relationship to English national identity that I outline in Chapter 1. My primary intellectual debt in writing this book has been to the small army of literary critics and cultural historians who have transformed the study of English fiction of the seventeenth, eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries in recent decades. This book could not have been written without their labours of historical research, textual editing, cultural theorizing, and reinterpretation. Few of the scholars on whom I have drawn are explicitly named in the chapters that follow—the alternative would have been to have put their names, which can be distracting for the non-specialist reader, on every page—but my appreciation of their work is no less heartfelt for that. All citations in the text are identified in the notes, and it is there and in the Further Reading that my indebtedness can be traced.
Nation and Novel has taken me many years to write—I am embarrassed to say how many—and there have been a number of false starts. At every stage I have benefited from the encouragement, criticism, and support of more friends and colleagues than I can possibly name. Above all, I would thank the University of Reading for institutional and technical support and for research leave, and my students with whom I have discussed so many of the novels that feature in these pages. I am profoundly indebted to the Leverhulme Trust for granting me a Major Research Fellowship (2001–4), without which this book might never have been completed. I have received invaluable detailed comments from those friends who have been willing to read and criticize draft chapters or sections, including Eric Homberger (a comrade of almost forty years), Andrzej Gasiorek, David Gervais, David Smith, Zohreh Sullivan, and Jim Hurt. Earlier versions of some of this material have been given as seminar or conference papers and, in some cases, published in journals: in this respect I would particularly thank David Blewett, Regenia Gagnier and Angelique Richardson, Annette Gomis, Susana Onega, Max Saunders,