Thursday, February 13, 2014

Denotatively, Technically, Literally Spec. issue of Representations 125 (Winter 2014)

Edited by Elaine Freedgood and Cannon Schmitt

Denotative, literal, and technical language—apparently transparent and lacking in resonance—seems to be the opposite of literary language. A vigorous reading of the former, this special issue of Representations argues, should seek to realize its opacity and difficulty, its nonidentity with itself. To do so requires a revised and expanded sense of denotation, a rethinking of reference, the dereification of writing, an appeal to more expansive and heterodox archives, a historicism that forestalls or delays the figural, and more reading. Unlike recent literary critical attempts to restrict the field of reading, the practices sketched here seek to remove all limits to that which can be read, researched, and made into meaning. Contributors include Freedgood and Schmitt as well as Rachel Sagner Buurma, Margaret Cohen, Ian Duncan, and Laura Heffernan.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Charles Dickens's Our Mutual Friend: A Publishing History

By Sean Grass

Even within the context of Charles Dickens's history as a publishing innovator, Our Mutual Friend is notable for what it reveals about Dickens as an author and about Victorian publishing. Marking Dickens's return to the monthly number format after nearly a decade of writing fiction designed for weekly publication in All the Year Round, Our Mutual Friend emerged against the backdrop of his failing health, troubled relationship with Ellen Ternan, and declining reputation among contemporary critics. In his subtly argued publishing history, Sean Grass shows how these difficulties combined to make Our Mutual Friend an extraordinarily odd novel, no less in its contents and unusually heavy revisions than in its marketing by Chapman and Hall, its transformation from a serial into British and U.S. book editions, its contemporary reception by readers and reviewers, and its delightfully uneven reputation among critics in the 150 years since Dickens’s death.

Enhanced by four appendices that offer contemporary accounts of the Staplehurst railway accident, information on archival materials, transcripts of all of the contemporary reviews, and a select bibliography of editions, Grass’s book shows why this last of Dickens’s finished novels continues to intrigue its readers and critics.

“This book represents an impressive scholarly achievement and will be the authoritative critical work on the novel for years to come. The background, reception, textual history and afterlives of this most sophisticated of Dickens novels are analyzed with both rigor and gusto. An appendix reprinting all known reviews of the text is indispensable. Our Mutual Friend and its fortunes are brought alive in these pages with devotion and detail; Grass has done a great service to Dickens's last finished novel and to Dickens studies more generally.”--Juliet John, Royal Holloway, University of London, UK and author of Dickens and Mass Culture

Available from Ashgate