Abstract

This article reviews recent methodological interventions in the field of literary study, many of which take nineteenth-century critics, readers, or writers as models for their less interpretive reading practices. In seeking out nineteenth-century models for twenty-first-century critical practice, these critics imagine a world in which English literature never became a discipline. Some see these new methods as formalist, yet we argue that they actually emerge from historicist self-critique. Specifically, these contemporary critics view the historicist projects of the 1980s as overly influenced by disciplinary models of textual interpretation—models that first arose, we show through our reading of the Jolly Bargemen scene in Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations (1860–61), in the second half of the nineteenth century. In closing, we look more closely at the work of a few recent critics who sound out the metonymic, adjacent, and referential relations between readers, texts, and historical worlds in order sustain historicism’s power to restore eroded meanings rather than reveal latent ones.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-2052
Print ISSN
0042-5222
Pages
pp. 615-628
Launched on MUSE
2014-01-10
Open Access
No
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