Ethics & the Novel, 1880-1914
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BOOK REVIEWS Gagnier's book is undoubtedly an important and arresting addition to the burgeoning scholarly field that concerns itself with the last fin de siècle. It is also paradigm-breaking in that it reads economic texts in relation to aesthetic models, and, by the same token, aesthetic texts in relation to economic models; the mutual illumination this provides for scholars from both fields is enormous. The leap forward, at the book's close, to the last two decades of the twentieth century has the salutary effect of reminding the reader that the economic paradigms of modernity have not yet been fully played out, Gagnier thereby avoiding a tooreductive teleology. A sharply focused cross-century comparative account of Bulwer Lytton's comedie Money and Caryl Churchill's Serious Money in the penultimate chapter strikingly yokes together the nineteenth and late-twentieth century, insisting that the competing economic and aesthetic models that the book explores have not yet been resolved (Martin Amis's Money is also used effectively in this chapter). In the final chapter Gagnier's account of the San Franciso-based "Theatre of the Homeless" interestingly explores the aestheticization of poverty in the late twentieth century. This is a startlingly ambitious, intellectually innovative project that cuts across scholarly fields with considerable authority. Its detailed interdisciplinary readings of nineteenth-century literary texts makes it essential reading for all students and scholars working in the field. Sally Ledger ___________Birkbeck College, University of London Ethics & the Novel, 1880-1914 JiI Larson. Ethics and Narrative in the English Novel, 1880-1914. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001. ix + 176 pp. $49.95 IN Ethics and Narrative in the English Novel, 1880-1914 JiI Larson draws on her established strengths as a Victorianist and an ethicist to provide solid footing for her study of ethics infin-de-siècle English novels. A former managing editor of Victorian Studies and current member of the Executive Board of the Centre for the Study of Ethics in Society , Larson brings to her book breadth of knowledge in the fields of literary theory and ethical theory. Accordingly, in this short volume she explores an ambitious array of topics as they relate to ethics and narrative , including the following: anxiety about agency; emotion and gender; chance and moral luck; aesthetics and moral agency; and speech acts. For the narrative study Larson takes a range of novels by Thomas 327 ELT 45 : 3 2002 Hardy, Olive Schreiner, Sarah Grand, Oscar Wilde, Henry James, and Joseph Conrad, and she peels away layers of the narratives using a hybrid tool of ethical theory and literary theory. Larson's study will have particular appeal to scholars of Victorian and Edwardian literature, feminist studies, moral philosophy, and ethical studies. In this tightly crafted volume Larson sets out to demonstrate the merits of treating ethics in one's assessment and understanding of the fin-de-siècle English novel. The morality and ethics of the time period, Larson argues, not only feature in the period's fiction, but also reflect the evolution of these qualities across the century. Hence, she pursues a two-part goal: "to read ethics through narrative by reflecting on ethical concepts or problems as they take shape in the telling of a story," and to "consider late nineteenth-century English novelists in relation to Victorian culture and the work of those writing earlier in the century." Not surprisingly given Larson's aim of joining two forms of analysis not traditionally employed together, the book consists of nearly as much theory as it does application ofthat theory. After making clear the book's goals in general, Larson methodically lays the foundation for her reading of ethics through narrative by first establishing her position within the context of contemporary moral philosophy. The author's promised analysis of the narrative texts doesn't begin until partway into the third of this six-chapter volume. Until that point, she devotes a great deal of careful attention to establishing the contexts within which she will perform the study of ethics in narrative. To begin, Larson introduces the nature of ethics studies and explains how the study of ethics can intersect gainfully with and inform such approaches...


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