The Things Things Say

The Things Things Say

By Jonathan Lamb; Lamb

Princeton University Press, Hardcover, 9780691148069, 312pp.

Publication Date: August 28, 2011


One of the new forms of prose fiction that emerged in the eighteenth century was the first-person narrative told by things such as coins, coaches, clothes, animals, or insects. This is an ambitious new account of the context in which these "it narratives" became so popular. What does it mean when property declares independence of its owners and begins to move and speak? Jonathan Lamb addresses this and many other questions as he advances a new interpretation of these odd tales, from Defoe, Pope, Swift, Gay, and Sterne, to advertisements, still life paintings, and South Seas journals.

Lamb emphasizes the subversive and even nonsensical quality of what things say; their interests are so radically different from ours that we either destroy or worship them. Existing outside systems of exchange and the priorities of civil society, things in fact advertise the dissident obscurity common to slave narratives all the way from Aesop and Phaedrus to Frederick Douglass and Primo Levi, a way of meaning only what is said, never saying what is meant. This is what Defoe's Roxana calls "the Sense of Things," and it is found in sounds, substances, and images rather than conventional signs.

This major work illuminates not only "it narratives," but also eighteenth-century literature, the rise of the novel, and the genealogy of the slave narrative.

About the Author
Jonathan Lamb is the Director of Langham Preaching, a programme which seeks to provide practical on-site support for a new generation of preachers and teachers, working with national leaders in organising training seminars, providing resources, and building a local movement committed to Bible exposition.

He is the author of several books, including "Tough Minds, Tender Hearts" (InterVarsity); "Crossway Bible Guide on 2 Corinthians; Making Progress in Church Life" (Paternoster/Partnership) and "Faith in the Face of Conflict."

His most recent publications are "Integrity: Leading with God Watching; From Why to Worship" (InterVarsity), a study guide to the prophecy of Habakkuk and "Godliness From Head To Toe" a study guide to James. He lives with his wife, Margaret, and three daughters in Oxford, where they attend St. Andrew's Church. "- Editorial Review."

Jonathan Lamb is the Andrew W. Mellon Chair of the Humanities at Vanderbilt University. His books include "The Evolution of Sympathy in the Long Eighteenth Century" and "Sterne's Fiction and the Double Principle."