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date: 16 September 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter follows Swift’s hint that our best ideas are inevitably adjacent to, or productive of, the worst: goodness is girdled by corruption, wit by madness, novelty by repetition. In satire this state of affairs is a cause for alarm, indignation, and reproof; in romance it is proof of glory excessive to all norms. The potential frenzy of the satirist is controlled by irony; the moral and historical disorder of romance is tempered by ritual and mannerism. How is the novel, the inheritor of these two traditions of fiction, to accommodate such extreme alternatives, given that its mission is to render probable the lives of ordinary people possessed of usual portions of intelligence and virtue? The answer is to reassert the importance of Cervantes to the development of the comic novel, where the elliptical tension between a bright idea and its reverse is sustained by anarchic oscillations between too much and too little.

Keywords: frenzy, irony, glory, madness, excess, peculiarity, conjecture, imagination

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