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ELT 48 : 1 2005 emancipation; James then argues convincingly that Gissing's sympathies do lie with women limited by the role to which their gender confines them, but that the refusal of more feminist endings is another manifestation of his rejection of the "utopian, and hence insincere, solution ." Whilst the arguments about women's occupation of public space are perhaps more problematic, his excellent discussion of publicity, commodification and modernity in The Whirlpool (which first appeared in the Gissing Journal for 1997) remains one of the most lucid and original readings of a highly complex and contradictory text. In a discussion of class, romance and reading, James notes that consumers of popular fiction (usually women such as Alice Mutimer and Virginia Madden) who appear in Gissing's novels are treated with contempt and their romantic views criticised as dangerously escapist; by the fin de siècle, it is implied, "the desire for happy endings is an immature habit that should be overcome by the better sort of reader." By making a strong case for the sincerity of Gissing's appeal to the "better sort of reader," this timely study of money and narrative, with its careful focus on Dickens and other mid-Victorian novelists, will advance our understanding of realism and its constraints not only in the 1880s and 1890s but throughout the Victorian period. Its mature engagement with contemporary theoretical debates about modernity, commodity relations and commercial culture will certainly stimulate further research on the late-Victorian period, whilst its detailed attention to the minor texts, letters and unpublished material and its provocative new readings of the well-known writing will help to generate new discussions amongst Gissing scholars. With its up-to-date bibliography and full coverage of the texts, the book will be essential reading both for students new to Gissing's work and researchers interested in the development of Victorian realist narrative and fin-de-siècle literary culture. EMMA LlGGINS Edge Hill College of Higher Education, Liverpool Oscar Wilde John Sloan. Oscar Wilde. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003. xii + 225 pp. Paper $9.95 THIS is a volume in Oxford's Authors in Context series, which according to the fly page, "provides detailed coverage of the values and debates that colour the writing of particular authors and considers their novels, plays, and poetry against this background." The titles of the five 100 BOOK REVIEWS chapters that follow an initial chapter on Wilde's life indicate the volume 's organization by topics: "The Fabric of Society," "The Literary Scene," "Wilde and Social Issues," "Wilde and Intellectual Issues," and "Recontextualizing Wilde." (This last is a survey of performances and adaptations of Wilde's works in the century following his death with attention to the changing estimates of Wilde that these embody; it is apparently a mandated part of volumes in the series.) The book also includes a chronology of Wilde's life matched with significant events in his culture, nine illustrations, five pages of "further readings," as well as shorter lists of web sites devoted to Wilde and of film, opera, and ballet adaptations of Wilde. Oscar Wilde's organization, along with its paper cover and pocket-size, suggests it is designed to be a supplementary text in undergraduate courses on Wilde, to be a more extensive version of the headnotes that introduce the selections from an author in an anthology. While the book could serve this function, I believe it is a better book to read after considerable acquaintance with Wilde's works. In fact, I think readers who have some familiarity with scholarly opinion on Wilde will get the most from the book—which is another way of saying that it deserves the attention of readers of this journal more than its appearance might indicate. The book does start slowly. Sloan probably has to begin with the chapter on Wilde's life. He tells the story clearly, giving a particularly dispassionate account of Wilde's disastrous affair with Bosie Douglas, for example, but just how Wilde's life, for all its notoriety, illuminates his work remains a critical problem. In my view, the chapter's most interesting connection comes when having noted Wilde's...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 100-104
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
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