The Moonstone

Intertextuality in The Moonstone College

In 1987, Michael McKeon theorized that the novel form developed concomitant with the rise of the individual in English society. This correlation implies that the novel marked a shift from a communal experience of literature to a solitary experience of text: the writer writes alone, and the reader reads alone. In his detective novel The Moonstone, Wilkie Collins works against this paradigm by emphasizing the benefits of writing and reading together, contrasted against the dangers of leaving a subjective interpretation unchecked. Indeed, the novel itself is an amalgam of different narratives; the method of storytelling is communal. Within the text, however, Collins’ narrators also rely on other texts to distract, bolster, shift, or clarify their own stories. Collins’ insertion of various texts throughout the novel—novels, songs, letters, wills, pamphlets, receipts, newspaper articles, and footnotes—implies a certain anxiety toward and rebellion against the notion that the novel is a solitary form, meant to be written and read by an individual.

Of course, writing a novel without engaging or referencing other texts would be nearly impossible. Collins, however, takes noticeable advantage of every opportunity to use text as a method...

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