Some versions of the fragment, 1700-1800
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Some Versions of the Fragment, 1700-1800 examines the eighteenth-century literary print fragment archive to redefine the fragment as a genre typified by its materiality. Eighteenth-century fragments included not just sentimental poems, but novels, satires, and political pamphlets. They are both long and short; written by famous and anonymous authors; canonical and unknown. This dissertation, in recuperating the eighteenth-century fragment’s rich variety, offers a taxonomy that includes three versions of the fragment: the unintentional, the intentional, and the complete. Examining the fragment in this way not only provides categories that can help us better understand how fragments fit within various social and cultural conditions in the eighteenth century, but also how these ways of understanding the fragment can help critics account for its evolutions today. Previous analyses of the literary fragment have emphasized its metaphorical qualities and its formal dimensions. This dissertation argues that the genre is defined no less by its materiality: prefaces, punctuation, and page arrangements are the common constitutive elements shared by all three versions of the fragment. By paying attention to the eighteenth-century fragment’s materiality, critics today can better account for the fragment’s role in the period’s generic developments, as well as its evolving literary marketplace.