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144Philosophy and Literature Modes ofProduction of Victorian Novels, by N. N. Feltes; ? & 144 pp. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986, $18.95. A short explanation about something is always welcome, and Modes of Production of Victorian Noveh is just such an explanation. It is a well-indexed book which provides a useful contribution to our sense of publishing history, while offering a salutary reminder that books are material objects whose authors sometimes serve ends which are other than artistic. Feltes sets out to demonstrate the determining influence that nineteenth-century publishing practice had on the Victorian novel during a period oftransition in England, from a precapitalist to a fully capitalist mode of literary production. He concentrates on five English novels published at approximately twentyyear intervals between 1836 and 1920, and devotes a chapter to each. The texts, Dickens's Pickwick Papers, Thackeray's Henry Esmond, Eliot's Middlemarch, Hardy 's Tess of the d'Urbervilles, and Forster's Howards End, are chosen not for familiarity, but because each represents a different first-publication format: part-issue, three volume, bimonthly, magazine serial, and single volume respectively . The production format is discussed as the concrete mediation of economic, literary and publishing history. Format notonly determines the actual production of the novel, but is also traceable in the text and produces its own ideology. The controlled book market of Victorian England, Feltes maintains, was a hegemonic structure which created and supported a particular kind of commodity. It was a commodity which in turn constructed its own audience. Thus Pickwick Papers becomes something more than a part-issue publication which allowed poor people to buy books. "Pickwick's relations of production, its format, and its literary form constituted the very commodity text which could reach, as it produced, a mass audience" (p. 13). This book, then, is not intended to be an historical account of capitalist novel production, but rather uses this information to demonstrate how each text encodes within itself "how, by whom and for whom it was produced" (p. xii). Themes and devices are examined, not for their contribution to unity or meaning , but for their determinate place in the production process. Feltes's Marxist approach gives an interesting insight to texts which are placed firmly in the context of historical materialism. Thackeray's contract with George Smith to produce a book of specific size and for a specific audience is reflected in Henry Esmond, Feltes maintains. That book appeals to its audience most obviously on the thematic level. The audience was of course the middle or upper-middle class subscriber to Mudie's. Theirs was the experience ofbelonging: to a family, to a group, or to a faith. Not unnaturally it was an experience they preferred to have confirmed. Thus, Henry Esmond represents "the gentlemanly ideal in a Reviews145 middle-class rather than an aristocratic context" (p. 29), and Tom Eaves, archgossip of Vanity Fair, is transformed and "accommodated to the decorum of the three decker novel as Father Holt" (p. 32). George Eliot, however, "freely, riskily, and successfully interpellated a special audience outside of Mudie's" (p. 49): a result of her concern with professionalism. This concern is reflected in the text in Lydgate's commitment to the "independent value of his own work" (p. 52). The bimonthly format ofMiddlemarch is the concrete mediation ofEliot's struggle to become a professional woman writer in a patriarchal publishing system. Whether it be early feminism or the "Booksellers Question" of 1852, Feltes draws upon a wealth of literary and publishing history, and uses it "more intensively than those historical and bibliographical materials have been used up to now" (p. ix). In doing so he provides an explanation of the development ofcapitalist novel production. Modes ofProduction ofVictorian Noveh is a valuable adjunct to the study of nineteenth-century literature. University of Waikato, New ZealandJan Pilditch Socrates and the Political Community: An Ancient Debate, by Mary Nichols; ? & 236 pp. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1987, $44.50 cloth, $16.95 paper. Mary Nichols is unduly modest when she introduces her recent book as an overview of die treatment accorded Socrates in Aristophanes' Clouds, Plato's Republic, and Book II ofAristode's Politics. What in...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 144-145
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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