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I Précis I Elizabeth Howells University of North Carolina, Greensboro Craig, Randall. Promising Language: Betrothal in Victorian Law and Fiction. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2000. vii + 331 pp. $23.95 IF YOU HAVE TOO FEW lawyers or not enough Court TV in your life, this issue's Précis is sure to fill that void with several entries describing the latest scholarship on nineteenth-century fiction and the law. The first line of Randall Craig's foreword to Promising Language summarizes his intent: "This study explores the linguistic implications and social ramifications of promising as a verbal practice, especially as depicted in novels by Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot, Anthony Trollope, George Meredith, and Henry James." He goes on to assert that he is situating the promise precisely at the intersection of various discourses : "as speech act, as social practice and legal contract, and as structural principle and topos." Similarly themed to Schramm's study discussed below, Craig connects law and story-telling by revealing the implicit connections between the two during the nineteenth-century. Beginning in the introduction with the issue of Victorian skepticism about language, he moves into an analysis of scholarship about the promise and finally into the way the law and narrative come together. Chapter one looks at.nineteenth-century thinking about language; chapter two discusses the Victorian ethos of promising in the contexts of betrothal and breach of promise law; and chapter three addresses legal fiction and narrating breach of promise. Chapters 4 through 8 focus on single novels: Jane Eyre, Adam Bede, The Egoist, Can You Forgive Her?, and The Wings of the Dove. ELT readers will perhaps be most interested in the chapter on James's The Wings of the Dove, published right in the center of the Transition period, and its examination of the "retrospective promise." The brief sections that structure the text reflect the encounters with the large number of disciplines Craig introduces us to. From structuralism to deconstruction, from narrative theory to legal documents, from nineteenth-century novelists to Victorian philologists, Craig will give us a whirlwind tour of the promise in the nineteenth-century. 253 ELT 44 : 2 2001 Hartman, Donald K. Historical Figures in Nineteenth Century Fiction. Kenmore, NY: Epoch Books, 1999. ν + 196 pp. $59.95 WHILE WE MAY KNOW to hunt for historical figures in the novels of Scott or Yonge, we might not have known where else to look in the world of novels, either historical, biographical or purely fictitious. Donald Hartman, however, presents us with citations of such appearances from Pierre Abelard's starring role in William Wilberforce Newton's 1883 biography to Jan Zizka's inclusion in James Baker's 1896 novel, The Gleaming Dawn: A Romance of the Middle Ages. Historical Figures in Nineteenth-Century Fiction, a companion to the 1994 Historical Figures in Fiction that covers English language books since 1940, catalogues the appearance of almost 1,000 historical figures who appeared as significant characters in 1,813 novels of the nineteenth century. Providing coverage of a vast array of historical figures and based on over 100 biographical and bibliographical sources, the index of entries including the character's name, dates, description, and appearances is supplemented by indices of authors, occupations, and literary titles. One can imagine its usefulness , for example, in locating representations of Queen Victoria over the course of the century or in examining nineteenth-century portraits of rulers more generally. Hartman has provided us with a worthwhile resource. Schramm, Jan-Melissa. Testimony and Advocacy in Victorian Law, Literature , and Theology. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000. ix + 244 pp. $59.95 THE SUBJECT-MATTER of Condition of England novels may reflect the reality of Victorian England, but Jan-Melissa Schramm argues that these forms of literary narrative reflected the changing nature of law and theology as well. According to her thesis, the shift from defendants testifying for themselves and theological testimony to professional acts of interpretation by barristers impacted authors of fiction. Trained as a lawyer and a literary scholar, Schramm examines the imitation of and reaction against this legal reality in nineteenth-century fiction. The opening anecdote draws us in by reminding us of Wilkie...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 253-256
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
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