Aphra Behn's English Feminism: Wit and Satire

By Dolors Altaba-Artal | Go to book overview

7
Aphra Behn's First Novel:
Love Letters Between a Nobleman
and His Sister

THE CHANGE OF GENRE IS THE BIGGEST SHIFT IN APHRA BEHN'S work, and it implies a change of models. As expected, her dialogic heteroglossia contains the Spanish voice for her novels, but for the first time she uses the voice of a woman—María de Zayas y Sotomayor. Surprisingly enough, the new feminine voice appears more antagonistic to Behn's idiosyncrasy; thus, the original models are integrated into her writings with pondering and progressive disagreement. Behn's stronger dialogization coincided with “the progress of the aesthetic conception 'imitation of nature,'” which brought forth “the intervention of the serious novel as one solution to that formal problem” of presenting the “human psyche” (Z, 203). Besides, from any perspective it is a fact that “the evolution of the dramatic form impulsed the development of the novel.1

Epistolary novels had been in vogue in Spain and France for some time when the first translations into English began to appear in London.2 Following the advanced trend of the epoch, Behn, whose works act as a very thermometer of the times, wrote her first novel, Love Letters Between a Nobleman and His Sister, which was an immediate success. Robert Adams Day finds that from the 1660s fiction letters are “established as a genre of real importance.” Probably because they provide “the opportunity to analyze and portray emotions and feelings at length without exceeding the privileges of the omniscient author.” The “advantage” of this form, as Ian Watt states, is that it is the “nearest record” of “the daily experience … composed of a ceaseless flow of thought, feeling and sensation.”3 Therefore, “the new epistolary novels grew in intimacy and immediacy … summarizing ac

-127-

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Aphra Behn's English Feminism: Wit and Satire
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 7
  • Preface 9
  • 1- Introduction- Before Aphra Behn 15
  • 2- Theology to Humanism 26
  • 3- Spanish Tale and Echoes 46
  • 4- Cape and Sword Plays 64
  • 5- The Heyday of Restoration Comedy 89
  • 6- Novelistic Drama 107
  • 7- Aphra Behn''s First Novel 127
  • 8- Aphra Behn''s "Nun" Novels 146
  • 9- Aphra Behn''s "Mistake" Novels 164
  • 10- Aphra Behn''s "Unfortunate" Novels 182
  • Coda 202
  • Notes 206
  • Bibliography 220
  • Index 226
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