"Wanderer’s End: Understanding Burney’s Approach to Endings"
- Emily Friedman (see profile)
- British literature, Eighteenth century, Fiction, Women
- Item Type:
- Endings, Frances Burney, Narrative closure, The Wanderer, 18th-century British literature, 18th-century novel, Novels, Women in the 18th century
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- This essay is part of a larger project that investigates the ways in which Burney's endings (in her novels, plays, and life-writing) create a sense (or non-sense) of an ending. Here I consider Burney's final novel, The Wanderer, in its place as Burney's final fictional ending. In my reading of Burney’s novel-writing career, The Wanderer is at the end of a writing life marked by expanding focus, wherein Burney consistently aspired to masterful unity but fought against the structures that were commonly used to define wholeness and completion. In the volume endings of The Wanderer, Burney explodes nearly every signifier of closure she used in her preceding novels. Once she reaches the ultimate end, Burney is left with the difficult task of crafting a satisfying close from these same elements. I argue that Burney’s final ending propels us back into the text, promoting a rereading that proves to be aesthetically, politically, and morally rewarding. Further, Burney’s confrontations with the common signifiers of closure mirror a larger literary reality that is more complex than has been previously understood.
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