I heard back from Blackwood today about my draft. Nothing terribly surprising. His comments were more or less as follows:
- It needs to be shorter. Definitely. It's much easier to cut material out than to draft more material, so I went with the shotgun approach for this draft, i.e., here's everything I could possibly think of to say on this topic, sprayed onto the pages like buckshot, in the hope that some of it is on-target.
- The argument needs to be made even more explicitly; right now it feels more like a catalog of the novels' features, rather than an in-depth analysis. I felt like I was still refining my argument as I was writing, so there are definitely places where I need to either make clear how a particular point fits into my argument, or remove material where things no longer fit into my argument.
- There should be some indication of why I chose the three novels I did. This is a bit awkward, actually. I chose Belinda because it was Edgeworth's first novel*, and Helen because it was her last; I wanted to see whether her attitude toward sensibility changed from one end of her career to the other. The Absentee I chose because I'd already read it for a class, but I think I'm going to have to come up with a better justification than that. Its publication falls more or less in the middle of her career, which makes it a good checkpoint chronologically. It is to some extent a national tale as well as a society novel, and the Irish national tale is not only a large part of her career, but one of the things that makes her an important author, so I kind of feel like I needed to have at least one national tale in there. However, I could just as easily have used Ennui or Ormond; I don't know that there's necessarily anything so compelling or representative about Absentee that I absolutely had to use that and nothing else. I'll have to think about that.
- It needs a stronger conclusion. Ha. It needs a conclusion. Again, because my argument was evolving as I wrote, I came to the end of the draft and wasn't entirely sure where I had ended up. This should be a lot easier to deal with once I get the whole thing cut down to a realistic size and tighten up my argument.
The good news is that he thinks it needs "one major revision" to be ready for Descartes and Victoria to look at it. [sigh] Back to work.
*I realize Castle Rackrent is often listed as Edgeworth's first novel, but it's so short I would classify it as more of a novella.