Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Sympathetic Realism in Nineteenth-Century British Fiction

By Rae Greiner
Indiana University

Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012

This book proposes a new model for understanding the “sympathetic realism” of the nineteenth-century realists. Sympathetic Realism reads fictional works by novelists such as Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Joseph Conrad, and Henry James, as well as philosophical and historical writings by authors such as Jeremy Bentham, in order to demonstrate the ways in which the protocols of sympathetic imagining, developed (especially) by Adam Smith in The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759), are at work in the forms, rather than simply in the contents, of these works. Such a sympathy does more than foster emotional identification with others. It provides a way of thinking “along with” them. By abstracting feeling away from its origins, by turning feelings into figures of speech, sympathy enables much more than emotional sharing, for it need not involve feeling at all. Sympathy’s most important contribution is not one-to-one emotional matching but instead a more mundane, more ordinary sense of comfortable, proximate agreement with others, a shared mentality or state of mind. Thus its most profound effect: sympathy produces realism. It is the cognitive process enabling us to experience a world held in common with others, to feel confident that our perceptions are theirs.   

Sympathetic Realism revises standard accounts of sympathy and realism. It considers sympathy as a way of thinking, an imaginative operation. Sympathy is neither an emotion in its own right nor an activity in which feeling necessarily results, but is instead the imaginative process through which the real is substantiated.  Neither sympathy nor the sympathetic realism of the novelists and writers in question stakes a claim on transparency. The sympathetic realism operating in their works functions as a means of provisional understanding, aware that we neither have nor should desire unencumbered access to other minds. Critics who describe realism as a “habit of mind,” and who define nineteenth-century literary realism in particular as an historicizing mode, thus describe what sympathetic realism feels like for readers and for (some) characters alike: as a way of inhabiting the mindsets out of which arise a sense of historical reality, a collective confidence in shared human sentiments and beliefs.  

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Women, Infanticide and the Press, 1822-1922: News Narratives in England and Australia

By Nicola Goc

In her study of anonymous infanticide news stories that appeared from 1822 to 1922 in the heart of the British Empire, in regional Leicester, and in the penal colony of Australia, Nicola Goc uses Critical Discourse Analysis to reveal both the broader patterns and the particular rhetorical strategies journalists used to report on young women who killed their babies. Her study takes Foucault’s perspective that the production of knowledge, of “facts” and truth claims, and the exercise of power, are inextricably connected to discourse. Newspaper discourses provide a way to investigate the discursive practices that brought the nineteenth-century infanticidal woman - known as ‘the Infanticide’ - into being. The actions of the infanticidal mother were understood as a fundamental threat to society, not only because they subverted the ideal of Victorian womanhood but also because a woman’s actions destroyed a man’s lineage. For these reasons, Goc demonstrates, infanticide narratives were politicised in the press and woven into interconnected narratives about the regulation of women, women's rights, the family, the law, welfare, and medicine that dominated nineteenth-century discourse. For example, the Times used individual stories of infanticide to argue against the Bastardy Clause in the Poor Law that denied unmarried women and their children relief. Infanticide narratives often adopted the conventions of the courtroom drama, with the young transgressive female positioned against a body of male authoritarian figures, a juxtaposition that reinforced male authority over women. At the same time, infanticide news stories created a way of knowing the women who killed their babies that fed into medical, judicial, and welfare policies regarding the crime of infanticide, created an acceptable way for society to view these women, and pathologised the women's actions. Alive to the marked differences between various types of newspapers, Goc's study offers a rich and nuanced discussion of the Victorian press's fascination with infanticide.

Publication Date: Feb 23, 2013
Publisher: Ashgate

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Monday, February 11, 2013

Disraeli: The Romance of Politics

By Robert O’Kell

Disraeli: The Romance of Politics examines the relationship between Disraeli’s novels and his political career and illuminates both in a way not previously attempted. The central argument is that the recurring fantasy structures of Disraeli’s novels and tales bear a striking similarity to the imaginative shaping of his political career. Both endeavours express the same urgencies of his life. The novels serve Disraeli as a means of exploring and coming to terms with both public and private aspects of his identity that are problematical, while the politics becomes a form of theatre in which the tensions and ambivalences of his character, including those related to his Jewish heritage, find ever more powerful expression in the roles occasioned by ideological disputes and his struggle for power within the Conservative Party.

In analysing the novels in the specific contexts of the crises of the political career – and vice-versa – this interdisciplinary study redefines the imaginatively autobiographical nature of the early fictions and provides radically new interpretations of the major novels, Coningsby (1844), Sybil (1845), Tancred (1847), Lothair (1870), and Endymion (1880), placing all of them in the genre of what Disraeli called ‘the psychological romance.’ It also provides fresh analyses of the Young England movement, the discussions of the Condition of England, the Corn Law debate of 1845–6, the Irish Disestablishment crisis of 1868, and the Eastern Question in the 1870s. The latter two topics also lead to new insight into the nature of Disraeli’s imperialism and his relationship with Queen Victoria. These reassessments are all based on evidence drawn from Disraeli’s own manuscripts, letters and speeches, and from parliamentary debates, as well as the memoirs and correspondence of his contemporaries.

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Power and Resistance: The Delhi Coronation Durbars

By Julie Codell

This book is a richly illustrated collection of essays on the global media representations of the Delhi Coronation Durbars of 1877, 1903 and 1911, with a focus on colonial photography of these monumental events. Authors draw on art history, anthropology, history and geography to analyze the social, political and ideological ways in which photography was deployed to record and enhance these imperial spectacles, and the subtle ways photographs also critiqued and undermined the imperial intentions of these events. The book is part of an innovative series on colonial photography that draws on the vast archives of thousands of colonial photographs of British imperial colonies in the Ebrahim Alkazi Foundation for the Arts (New Delhi).

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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Julian Bell: From Bloomsbury to the Spanish Civil War

Peter Stansky and William Abrahams

Julian Bell explores the life of a younger member, and sole poet, of the Bloomsbury Group, the most important community of British writers and intellectuals in the twentieth century, which includes Virginia Woolf (Julian's aunt), E. M. Forster, the economist John Maynard Keynes, and the art critic Roger Fry. This biography draws upon the expanding archives on Bloomsbury to present Julian's life more completely and more personally than has been done previously. It is an intense and profound exploration of personal, sexual, intellectual, political, and literary life in England between the two world wars. Through Julian, the book provides important insights on Virginia Woolf, his mother Vanessa Bell, and other members of the Bloomsbury Group. Taking us from London to China to Spain during its civil war, the book is also the ultimately heartbreaking story of one young man's life.

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How to Do Things with Books in Victorian Britain

Leah Price

How to Do Things with Books in Victorian Britain asks how our culture came to frown on using books for any purpose other than reading. When did the coffee-table book become an object of scorn? Why did law courts forbid witnesses to kiss the bible? What made Victorian cartoonists mock commuters who hid behind the newspaper, ladies who matched their books’ binding to their dress, and servants who reduced newspapers to fish n’ chips wrap?

Shedding new light on novels by Thackeray, Dickens, the Brontës, Trollope, and Collins, as well as the urban sociology of Henry Mayhew, Leah Price also uncovers the lives and afterlives of anonymous religious tracts and household manuals. From knickknacks to waste paper, books mattered to the Victorians in ways that can’t be explained by their printed content alone. And whether displayed, defaced, exchanged, or discarded, printed matter participated, and still participates, in a range of transactions that stretches far beyond reading.

Supplementing close readings with an ethnography of how Victorians thought and felt about books, Price offers a new model for integrating literary theory with cultural history. How to Do Things with Books in Victorian England reshapes our understanding of the interplay between words and objects in the nineteenth century and beyond.

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The Autobiography and Letters of Mrs M O W Oliphant

Editor: Linda H. Peterson in The Selected Works of Margaret Oliphant, ed. Joanne Shattock and Elisabeth Jay. Pickering & Chatto, 2012.

This new scholarly edition reproduces the original 1899 Autobiography and Letters of Mrs M O W Oliphant, together with entries from her personal diaries for 1887, 1888 and 1896. It includes annotations of the full text, as well as textual variants from the original manuscript and for the second and third editions. The volume is part of a large editorial project on Oliphant’s works. Part I, “Literary Criticism and Literary History,” includes four volumes: Literary Criticism, 1854–69; Literary Criticism, 1870–76; Literary Criticism, 1877–86; and The Victorian Age of English Literature. In addition to the Autobiography, Part II, “Literary Criticism, Autobiography, Biography and Historical Writing,” includes Literary Criticism, 1887–97; Writings on Biography (2 vols.); and Historical Writing. For future volumes, see

Doctoring the Novel: Medicine and Quackery from Shelley to Doyle

Sylvia A. Pamboukian

If nineteenth-century Britain witnessed the rise of medical professionalism, it also witnessed rampant quackery. It is tempting to categorize historical practices as either orthodox or quack, but what did these terms really signify in medical and public circles at the time? How did they develop and evolve? What do they tell us about actual medical practices?

Doctoring the Novel explores the ways in which language constructs and stabilizes these slippery terms by examining medical quackery and orthodoxy in works such as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Charles Dickens’s Bleak House and Little Dorrit, Charlotte Brontë’s Villette, Wilkie Collins’s Armadale, and Arthur Conan Doyle’s Stark Munro Letters. Contextualized in both medical and popular publishing, literary analysis reveals that even supposedly medico-scientific concepts such as orthodoxy and quackery evolve not in elite laboratories and bourgeois medical societies but in the rough-and-tumble of the public sphere, a view that acknowledges the considerable, and often underrated, influence of language on medical practices.

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Slow Print: Literary Radicalism and Late Victorian Print Culture

Elizabeth Carolyn Miller

This book explores the literary culture of Britain's radical press from 1880 to 1910, a time that saw a flourishing of radical political activity as well as the emergence of a mass print industry. While Enlightenment radicals and their heirs had seen free print as an agent of revolutionary transformation, socialist, anarchist and other radicals of this later period suspected that a mass public could not exist outside the capitalist system. In response, they purposely reduced the scale of print by appealing to a small, counter-cultural audience. "Slow print," like "slow food" today, actively resisted industrial production and the commercialization of new domains of life.

Drawing on under-studied periodicals and archives, this book uncovers a largely forgotten literary-political context. It looks at the extensive debate within the radical press over how to situate radical values within an evolving media ecology, debates that engaged some of the most famous writers of the era (William Morris and George Bernard Shaw), a host of lesser-known figures (theosophical socialist and birth control reformer Annie Besant, gay rights pioneer Edward Carpenter, and proto-modernist editor Alfred Orage), and countless anonymous others.

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The Dispossessed State: Narratives of Ownership in Nineteenth-Century Britain and Ireland

Sara L. Maurer

This book connects the Victorian novel’s preoccupation with the landed estate to the nineteenth-century debates about property that characterized the English occupation of Ireland. Victorian writers on both sides of the Irish Sea were deeply attracted to the idea that the Irish had rights to their land that the state was powerless to give or take away. Analyzing this strain of thought through a century of British and Irish fiction, journalism, and political theory, Maurer suggests that the ownership of Irish land played a major role in how Victorians were able to imagine a political entity called the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Bringing together canonical British novelists—Maria Edgeworth, Anthony Trollope, George Moore, and George Meredith—with the writings of major British political theorists—John Stuart Mill, Henry Sumner Maine, and William Gladstone—Maurer recovers the broad influence of Irish culture on the rest of the British Isles.

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Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Aurora Leigh: A Reading Guide

Michele Martinez

Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Aurora Leigh: A Reading Guide introduces new readers and students to a celebrated and controversial Victorian novel-poem. Long extracts from the text are accompanied by fresh biographical and scholarly commentary. The text’s composition history, major influences, and modes of poetic expression are also generously discussed. Martinez guides readers through the poems major themes and contexts, introducing a range of interpretive frameworks. The teaching and bibliographic chapters offer supplementary materials for college or university instruction.

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The Rise and Fall of Meter

Meredith Martin

Why do we often teach English poetic meter by the Greek terms iamb and trochee? How is our understanding of English meter influenced by the history of England's sense of itself in the nineteenth century? Not an old-fashioned approach to poetry, but a dynamic, contested, and inherently nontraditional field, "English meter" concerned issues of personal and national identity, class, education, patriotism, militarism, and the development of English literature as a discipline. The Rise and Fall of Meter tells the unknown story of English meter from the late eighteenth century until just after World War I. Uncovering a vast and unexplored archive in the history of poetics, Meredith Martin shows that the history of prosody is tied to the ways Victorian England argued about its national identity.

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Economic Woman: Demand, Gender, and Narrative Closure in Eliot and Hardy

Deanna K. Kreisel

In Economic Woman, Deanna K. Kreisel shows how images of feminized sexuality in novels by George Eliot and Thomas Hardy reflected widespread contemporary anxieties about the growth of capitalism. Economic Woman is the first book to address directly the links between classical political economy and gender in the novel. Examining key works by Eliot and Hardy, including The Mill on the Floss and Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Kreisel investigates the meaning of two female representations: the ‘economic woman,’ who embodies idealized sexual restraint and wise domestic management, and the degraded prostitute, characterized by sexual excess and economic turmoil. Kreisel effectively integrates economic thought with literary analysis to contribute to an ongoing and lively scholarly discussion.

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The Victorian World

Martin Hewitt

With an interdisciplinary approach that encompasses political history, the history of ideas, cultural history and art history, The Victorian World offers a sweeping survey of the world in the nineteenth century.

This volume offers a fresh evaluation of Britain and its global presence in the years from the 1830s to the 1900s. It brings together scholars from history, literary studies, art history, historical geography, historical sociology, criminology, economics and the history of law, to explore more than 40 themes central to an understanding of the nature of Victorian society and culture, both in Britain and in the rest of the world. Organised around six core themes – the world order, economy and society, politics, knowledge and belief, and culture – The Victorian World offers thematic essays that consider the interplay of domestic and global dynamics in the formation of Victorian orthodoxies. A further section on ‘Varieties of Victorianism’ offers considerations of the production and reproduction of external versions of Victorian culture, in India, Africa, the United States, the settler colonies and Latin America. These thematic essays are supplemented by a substantial introductory essay, which offers a challenging alternative to traditional interpretations of the chronology and periodisation of the Victorian years.

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The Life of George Eliot

Nancy Henry

The life story of the Victorian novelist George Eliot is as dramatic and complex as her best plots. This new assessment of her life and work combines recent biographical research with penetrating literary criticism, resulting in revealing new interpretations of her literary work.

  • A fresh look at George Eliot's captivating life story
  • Includes original new analysis of her writing
  • Deploys the latest biographical research
  • Combines literary criticism with biographical narrative to offer a rounded perspective

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BRANCH: Britain, Representation, and Nineteenth-Century History, 1775-1925

Editor: Dino Franco Felluga

This site, an extension of Romanticism and Victorianism on the Net, provides users with a free, expansive, searchable, reliable, peer-reviewed, copy-edited, easy-to-use overview of the period 1775-1925. Unlike dry chronologies that simply list dates with minimal information about the many noteworthy events of a given year, BRANCH offers a compilation of a myriad of short articles on not only high politics and military history but also “low” or quotidian histories (architecture design, commercial history, marginal figures of note, and so on). Since no one scholar could hope to provide a complete overview of an entire century of British society, I have compiled material from a host of scholars working on all facets of the British nineteenth century. Authors come from History, Art History, and English departments across the world. The site differs from Wikipedia in so far as all articles have undergone peer review, copy-editing, and proofing. Each article also seeks to interpret the events being discussed. Indeed, many events are discussed by more than one scholar. Thanks to its site structure, BRANCH offers users an innovative approach to history itself, suggesting that any given bit of historical information can branch outward in often surprising directions. Rather than provide a linear timeline of history from the perspective of the victors, I wish to provide a history that comes closer to what Walter Benjamin famously termed jetztzeitor “the time of the now,” an impacted history that explores the messy uncertainties and possibilities of any given historical moment.

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The Yellow Nineties Online. Peer-reviewed and federated with NINES, April 2012. Web.

Editors: Dennis Denisoff and Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, eds.

An avant-garde magazine innovative in both form and content, The Yellow Book was the defining document of the decade it coloured as "the yellow nineties" and remains central to the study of fin-de-siècle art, literature, and society. In response to issues of access to the periodical itself and the lack of a cohesive centre for aggregating scholarly commentary on The Yellow Book, editors Dennis Denisoff and Lorraine Janzen Kooistra have turned to digital technology. The Yellow Nineties Online places The Yellow Book in the context of related fin-de-siècle aesthetic periodicals and the transatlantic reviewing mechanisms they generated. The site gives immediate open access to historical documents, while preserving, in a regularly updated virtual form, periodicals in danger of disintegration due to their crumbling, pulp-based and chemical-bleached paper.

Most importantly, The Yellow Nineties Online opens the pages of The Yellow Book and related periodicals to new forms of reading and analysis by bringing the visualization technologies of our digital age to bear on the material objects of fin-de-siècle print culture. In its current phase, all 13 volumes of The Yellow Book (1894-1897) are available in digitized form, and the first half of the print run has been fully edited. The single-volume Pagan Review (1892) has been included in this initial stage of site development because of its many connections to The Yellow Book, its extreme rarity (only two copies are known to be extant), and its expansion of the publishing context from urban London to rural Sussex. The digitization of these two periodicals and their respective paratextual materials allows users to juxtapose key print documents of the aesthetic and decadent movements with those coming out of the Celtic Revival and neo-paganism.

Denisoff and Janzen Kooistra provide introductory essays for each individual volume as well as scholarly overviews of each magazine as whole. Their editorial theory of text as socially and collaboratively produced is made explicit in the Biographies section of the site. Here users can access scholarly biographies on contributors to the periodicals published as well as other individuals who made significant contributions to the 1890s in the areas of culture, literature, visual art, book-design, publishing, and technological innovation. In a series of meta-critical essays, the research team reflects on the process of building The Yellow Nineties Online and on the relationships between fin-de-siècle periodicals and twenty-first century digital projects, both produced collaboratively and serially, with a fixed starting point but a theoretically continuous life span. All documents on The Yellow Nineties Online are marked-up and fully searchable, and the site has been peer-reviewed and federated by the Networked Interface of Nineteenth-Century Electronic Scholarship (NINES).

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The Dream Life of Citizens: Late Victorian Novels and the Fantasy of the State

Zarena Aslami

It has become commonplace to claim that nations are constituted through the incitement of feelings and the operations of fantasy. But can we think of the state as a subject of feeling, as well? This study of late Victorian culture argues that novels certainly did. Revisiting major works by Olive Schreiner, Thomas Hardy, and George Gissing among others, it shows how novels dramatized the feelings and fantasies of a culture that was increasingly optimistic, as well as anxious, about the state’s capacity to “step in” and help its citizens achieve the good life. In particular, the book tracks the historical emergence of a fantasy of the state as a heroic actor with whom one has a relationship and from whom one desires something and argues that novels became a privileged site for meditating on its more tragic implications. The central tragedy arises from the painful condition of individuals’ imagining themselves to be independent of power-bearing institutions, yet knowing that they are not and may not even wish to be. The Dream Life of Citizens illuminates this enduring ambivalence at the heart of the liberal subject’s relationship to state power.

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Sanitary Reform in Victorian Britain, Part 1

Michelle Allen-Emerson, Christopher Hamlin, Tina Young Choi (Volume Editors)

Sanitary reform was one of the great debates of the nineteenth century. This six volume edition, published in two parts, makes available for the first time a modern, edited collection of rare nineteenth-century documents specifically addressing sanitary reform. The collection includes material on Glasgow, Edinburgh, Manchester, Dublin, and London, giving a nationwide perspective on the conditions of British urban life. Moreover, it covers the diverse range of projects pursued in the name of urban sanitation, including burial reform, sewerage, water supply, public baths, housing, and inspection. The material on these and other initiatives reflects the views of the many interest groups involved, from medicine and engineering to philanthropy, politics, and the Church. This unique resource is an invaluable tool for researchers of the History of Science and Medicine and Victorian Studies.