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228 letters in canada 2002 university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 1, winter 2003/4 B >but Aunreadable,@ morally incoherent.= In Barchester Towers, they explore the relationship between Signora Neroni and Eleanor Bold, which allows one to appear pure and the other abject, while expressing the social interdependence of the two figures. Similarly, in their discussion of Aurora Leigh, they emphasize the significance of Marian in Aurora=s struggles, finding the >blanks, absences, illegibilities, and contradictions [of Aurora=s development] largely figured in the body of Marian.= In >The Poor Clare= and Man and Wife, they point to the ways that the bodies of Lucy=s ghostly double and Anne=s working-class double, Hester, bespeak the bourgeois violence that can find its way into the narrative by no other means. In these chapters, they reveal that the walls surrounding the >comfortable, customary domestic middle-class environment= are breached by the >spectral manifestations of what may not be mentioned,= even if readers are returned to that normative space in the tale=s close. Though their arguments are quite persuasive, it is when they reproduce the strict boundaries that they tackle elsewhere B between the public and private, between body and speech B that the study falters. In >The Poor Clare,= the authors read Bridget=s >unrepresentable= confession as inefficacious and sensational, dismissing her engagement in the very bodily (starvation, feeding, nursing) and the lasting social effects of her behaviour (the termination of a war) B a reading that negatively colours their interpretation of the whole text. In >Janet=s Repentance,= it is the complex histories of all three figures, histories that disrupt simple characterizations B Dempster is not simply aggressive and >evil= or Janet simply >blank= B that make the tale compelling. Tryan offers confession as a way to relieve pain, but the suggestion that >The Christian model of confession makes the past a blank slate= flattens out the tensions in the narrative. Confession and forgiveness rely upon the persistence of sin; in fact, they makes no sense without it; just as Janet=s crippling anguish makes sense in part because her tragically violent marriage emerges out of tender love. When the authors argue that >all of the crucial events in Marian=s life occur through her body,= they fail to register Marian=s choice to flee her mother=s abuse and her remarkable ability to critique the social codes that would have made her simply a victim as a daughter and a mother. The outcome of such readings is the authors= frequent reference to violence (such as the rape Marian ultimately suffers) as >inevitable,= as >a matrix from which escape is essentially impossible.= While their movement through each text is filled with insight and they make a strong case for the role of women=s bodies as the index of unspeakable violence, I see much of the disruption and haunting that the authors highlight as potentially effective critique B critique that undermines the monolithic quality of the social matrix they seem to read as impervious to change. (MARLENE TROMP) Gerard Curtis. Visual Words: Art and the Material Book in Victorian England humanities 229 university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 1, winter 2003/4 Ashgate. xii, 306. US $94.95 From his curiosity about why authors= portraits often show them holding pens, and why the old British Museum Reading Room had false bookcases for doors, Gerard Curtis aims to offer a perspective on the relationship between what he calls the textual and the visual. By textual he means printed texts, and not texts in the wider definition usually used in history of the book studies. His aim is to examine portraits and paintings, books and other written texts as containers of discourse. He says that pen and pencil B his textual and visual B were united in the Victorian mind. My main objection to this, apart from the narrow definition of text, is that the Victorian period was long and ever-changing. But through his examples Curtis himself in fact demonstrates his recognition of that fact. The chapter endnotes and the extensive secondary bibliography illustrate the research and scholarship of this wide-ranging book. Chapter 1 looks at...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 228-230
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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