Category Archives: Victorian fiction

How to Read a Victorian Novel

a somewhat tongue-in-cheek contribution to the How-To Issue Tumblr First of all, don’t listen to anyone who tells you not to. Middlemarch “kills book clubs”? Please! Unlike some highly-regarded classics, these novels were written to be read–by all of us. But you do need to be properly equipped. Bring both your head and your heart: […]

Blogging the Victorians

It seems like I haven’t been writing about much Victorian literature recently (except for my teaching posts, and even there, last term I didn’t have nearly as much Victorian content as usual!). Happily for us all, though, there are other bloggers who have lots of good things to say about the good stuff. Recently, for […]

Recommended Reading

By popular demand–or, at any rate, at the request of ‘Robby Virus,’ of Blogging the Canon, one of my favorite sources for lively commentary and good drinks recipes–here is the list of ‘recommended further reading’ I offered to the students in my 19th-century fiction class at the end of term. If you liked Persuasion: other […]

Pedagogy, Evaluation, and What We Look for in ‘the’ Novel

(cross-posted to The Valve) Recent threads at The Reading Experience (including this acrimonious one launched by Dan’s blunt denunciation of Dostoevsky’s “cheap tricks” and “unrelenting tedium”) have had me thinking (again, and see also these posts) about the problem of literary evaluation. In The Death of the Critic, Ronan McDonald declared that “The first step […]

Critical Limitations

I couldn’t have said this better myself. In fact, in the introduction I wrote for my forthcoming anthology of 19th-century novel criticism, I didn’t say it better myself, though this is pretty much what I was getting at: In the early twentieth century, . . . [a] more “professional” and more self-consciously theorized discourse about […]

George Levine on Vanity Fair

Unsurprisingly, eminent Victorianist George Levine writes well about “Vanity Fair and Victorian Realism” in his newly released How to Read the Victorian Novel: In refusing the satisfactions of closure, Thackeray is implicitly affirming the importance of the realist enterprise; in rejecting the comic ending and the possibility of a satisfactory conclusion (“Which of us is […]

Go in!

Yesterday I finally mailed off the typescript (all 500+ pages) of the anthology of 19th-century novel criticism that I have been working on for…well, longer than I like to admit. In the end, will it be all it could have been, or should have been? Who can say? What would be the measure? Still, the […]

The Best [Victorians] of 2007

Amidst the flurry of ‘Top 10’ and ‘Best Of’ book lists that the end of the year inevitably generates (and after reading several dismissals of Victorian novels in various insistently modernist blogs), it’s nice to see some people proclaiming how much fun is to be had with Dickens and George Eliot (both via The Millions): […]

This Week in My Classes

1. 19th-Century Novel. We’re still on Great Expectations this week, moving through the phase that I lecture on as “Great Revelations.” While I tend to emphasize the moral pressures of the novel in class, while re-reading it this weekend I found myself pleasurably reminded of what an emotionally powerful and intensely literary book it is. […]

Leslie Stephen, "Charlotte Bronte"

Just a few choice bits from the latest essay I’ve been editing for my forthcoming anthology, Leslie Stephen’s piece on Charlotte Bronte from the Cornhill Magazine. First, an apt description of the uneasy balance required of either reviewer or critic between sympathy and analysis, charity and judgment: Undoubtedly it is a very difficult task to […]

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