Terrible Sociability: The Text of Manners in Laclos, Goethe, and James


This is a book about the novel of manners or mondanité as a form. It examines how the customs, mores, and rules of personal intercourse allow novelists to write about precisely those aspects of human experience that are quite unmannerly. Readings of Laclos's Dangerous Liasons, Goethe's Elective Affinities, and Henry James's the Golden Bowl show how each text addresses the manners organizing society in such a way as to engage the issues that most threaten the novel of manners itself. Because manners are ostensibly conservative, these works manifest a productive tension between their conventions of representation and overt ideological concerns on the one hand and their hidden agendas on the other. Winnett not only shows how each novelist uses a particular set of formal conventions to articulate a theme he would not have been able to treat directly, but also what it means to choose manners to represent concerns that manners would seem to proscribe.


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