Volume 46, Number 4, Winter 2014
Confessions of a Mass Public: Reflexive Formations of Subjectivity in Early Nineteenth-Century British Fiction—Jacqueline George, pp. 387-405
This essay examines a set of British novels that include the term “confessions” in their titles but feature narratives that deviate sharply from traditional confessional modes: The Confessions of Sir Henry Longueville (1814) by R. P. Gillies; Confessions of an Oxonian (1826) by Thomas Little; Confessions of an Old Bachelor (1827) and Confessions of an Old Maid (1828) by Edmund Carrington; Confessions of an Elderly Gentleman (1836) and Confessions of an Elderly Lady (1838) by the Countess of Blessington; Antipathy: or, the Confessions of a Cat-Hater (1836) by John Ainslie; The Confessions of Harry Lorrequer (1839) by Charles Lever. The essay argues that the unique mode of subjectivity cultivated by the “confessors” of these works shares a reflexive relationship with the massification of the reading public in the early nineteenth century. This pattern of reflexive formation, in turn, results in a novelistic mode that unexpectedly fosters a disinterested manner of reading.
“Looking South”: Envisioning the European South in North and South—Lindsay Wilhelm, pp. 406-422
This paper broadens the geographic parameters of Elizabeth Gaskell’s condition-of-England novel North and South to encompass the European north and south, roughly corresponding to England and the Mediterranean. In North and South and her essay “Modern Greek Songs,” Gaskell envisions the far-flung Mediterranean as the preservative echo of modern England’s past: within this paradigm, these southern locales become exotic destinations rather than distinct spaces with their own cultural, political, and historical realities. The Mediterranean thus serves as a sounding board for the nostalgic and escapist desires of Gaskell’s protagonist, Margaret Hale (and, as this paper points out, Gaskell herself). But as the novel’s English expatriates return—Margaret’s brother from Cadiz, her cousin Edith from Corfu—bearing the ominous marks of partial assimilation, Gaskell ultimately ironizes this tourist’s notion of southern Europe. In doing so, Gaskell both reaffirms her teleological construction of “southernness” and reinforces her ideological commitments to the industrializing, modernizing north.
Never Great, Only Popular: Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s The Doctor’s Wife and The Literary Marketplace—Jennifer Conary, pp. 423-443
This essay reads Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s novel The Doctor’s Wife (1864)as offering a nuanced examination of the literary marketplace in the early 1860s. I argue that Braddon celebrates her own success as a sensation novelist through the character of Sigismund Smith, a successful, harmless, and content sensation writer. Braddon simultaneously critiques the work of her more respectable peers—writers such as Dickens, Scott, and Thackeray—by showing the negative effect romances and domestic novels have on her quixotic heroine. Through her description of Smith’s fiction and her copious references to famous English novels and poetry from the first half of the nineteenth century, Braddon defends sensation fiction as harmless entertainment while illustrating the ways in which more highly regarded literature provided young women with unrealistic or potentially harmful expectations for marriage and ordinary domestic life.
The Monumental Failure of Howards End—Harrington Weihl, pp. 444-463
This article examines E. M. Forster's 1910 novel Howards End and sets out to reconsider its relation to place and architecture. Using Henri Lefebvre’s concept of ‘the monument,’ this article demonstrates how the failure of the titular house in Howards End to serve as an authentic ‘monument’—a built space that corresponds to and determines the social space surrounding it—is not simply an inadequacy but in fact a very modern success, given the impossibility of traditional monuments operating successfully in a modern, imperialist nation-state. Similarly, Forster’s early modernist novel is incapable of fully representing or corresponding to the ever-accelerating chaos of modern life. When read alongside the house, the novel can be understood as a modernist success precisely in the way it articulates and highlights the insufficiency of traditional representation in structuring (or reconstructing) modern lived experience.
Walking Alone Together: Family Monsters in The Haunting of Hill House—Richard Pascal, pp. 464-485
Readings of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House have tended to foreground the novel’s presentation of the disturbed psyche of its main character, Eleanor Vance. This essay does not seek to contest those approaches, but to contextualize them by focusing upon significant sociopolitical currents of the postwar era that inform Jackson’s most popular novel. It argues that the Gothic psychodrama of the narrative both reflects and interrogates the period’s widely disseminated and contentious notions of parenting, and of familial roles more broadly. The debate pitted advocates of “permissive parenting” against those who believed in a more traditional authoritarian approach. Eleanor is emotionally torn between them, and her climactic suicide indicts both camps. But the distinction between the two is less absolute than it appears to be. Though apparently in opposition to one another, they share an obsession with domesticity as the critical social endeavor, especially with regard to child rearing. In effect, the novel implies, by stressing the centricity of the child in domestic life they have tacitly conspired to create a society in which adults venerate childish self centeredness to a degree that approaches envy and emulation, and that subverts the ideal of familial and social communality from within.
The Danger of Rereading: Disastrous Endings in Paul Auster’s The Brooklyn Follies and Jhumpa Lahiri’s Unaccustomed Earth—Heidi Elisabeth Bollinger, pp. 486-506
This article discusses Paul Auster’s The Brooklyn Follies (2006) and Jhumpa Lahiri’s Unaccustomed Earth (2008) as cases of contemporary fiction in which disaster functions as an instrumental narrative device. Auster and Lahiri invoke disasters in the final pages of their narratives to terminate their plots: the September 11 terrorist attacks and the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, respectively, not only end but explode their narratives. What after-effects do such disastrous endings create? Inexplicable and unmotivated disastrous endings create the urge to reread and reinterpret the preceding narrative in light of their unexpected end. The very lack of foreshadowing—the unexpectedness of the disastrous ending— invites the reader to seek narrative unity in the form of foreshadowing. The Brooklyn Follies and Unaccustomed Earth demonstrate how disastrous events create a profound urge to retrospectively interpret events through the lens of their conclusions, and they reveal the serious limitations of such rereading.
Making the Modern Fan: Readerships and Aesthetics in Austen Studies—Toby R. Benis, pp. 507-510
Prudes on the Prowl: Fiction and Obscenity in England, 1850 to the Present Day ed. by David Bradshaw, and Rachel Potter (review)—Susan Mooney, pp. 511-512
The Dream of the Great American Novel by Lawrence Buell (review)—Clare Eby, pp. 512-514
Green Planets: Ecology and Science Fiction ed. by Gerry Canavan, and Kim Stanley Robinson (review)—Everett Hamner, pp. 514-515
Uncle Tom’s Cabin on the American Stage and Screen by John W. Frick (review)—Christopher Diller, pp. 516-517
Toward the Geopolitical Novel: U.S. Fiction in the Twenty-First Century by Caren Irr (review)—Jerry Varsava, pp. 517-518
Social Reform in Gothic Writing: Fantastic Forms of Change, 1764-1834 by Ellen Malenas Ledoux (review)—Joellen Delucia, pp. 518-520z
Feminist Narrative Ethics by Katherine Saunders Nash (review)—Anne E. Fernald, pp. 520-521
Reform Acts: Chartism, Social Agency, and the Victorian Novel 1832-1867 by Chris R. Vanden Bossche (review)—Michael D. Lewis, pp. 521-523
- Heidi Elisabeth Bollinger is an assistant professor of English at Hostos Community College, City University of New York. Her research interests include African American literature, contemporary American literature, memoir, and genre theory. She has been published in Genre, JNT: Journal of Narrative Theory, a/b: Autobiography Studies, and Callaloo.
- Jennifer Conary is an assistant professor of English at DePaul University in Chicago. Her research focuses primarily on the Victorian social problem novel, and she has published articles on works by Benjamin Disraeli, George Gissing, and Charles Dickens. Her current project investigates the intersections between the Victorian Bildungsroman and the social problem novel. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Southern California in 2008.
- Jacqueline George, assistant professor of English at SUNY New Paltz, has written about the history of reading, Romantic subjectivity, and relationships between books and people. Her current research interests include British prose fiction of the 1820s and ’30s as well as topics in the digital humanities.
- Rich Pascal has published several articles on Shirley Jackson’s fiction. For several decades he has lectured in various areas of literary and cultural studies, including American Literature, Gothic Narrative, and Indigenous Australian Literature, at the Australian National University. He has held visiting fellowships at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand and at the University of New Mexico. Currently he holds the position of Visiting Fellow at the ANU’s School of Literature, Languages and Linguistics.
- Harrington Weihl received his master’s degree from West Virginia University in May 2014 and is currently in the process of applying to doctoral programs. His research interests are primarily in representations of space in twentieth-century literature, theories of modernism, and Marxist theory and practice.
- Lindsay Wilhelm is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of California, Los Angeles. Her interests include nineteenth-century critical prose, aestheticism, science writing, and the novel. She is currently working on a dissertation project that examines the ideological overlap between British aestheticism and an optimistic strain of evolutionary discourse premised on certain scientific understandings of the aesthetic.