The Institution of Literature in the Age of the Novel
Publication Year: 2010
Published by: Fordham University Press
Title Page, Copyright
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The year 1968 dramatically conjoined culture and politics in Paris, Prague, Mexico City, and many other parts of the world. In my own life as a student, the year framed my first encounter with two great critics, one on the page, one in person, whose work continues to provoke and sustain my thinking...
I. Politics and the Canon
1. The Impact of Shakespeare: Goethe to Melville
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This chapter was composed for a standard reference work, so it fulfills obligations to facts and coverage, but it also enacts a generic impurity. It generates new thinking by developing an argument and the claims that undergird this book. I argue that literary history operates discontinuously, by what I...
2. The Media of Sublimity: Johnson and Lambon King Lear
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In dismissing the nineteenth century’s ‘‘semi-ethical criterion of ‘sublimity,’ ’’ T. S. Eliot in 1919 banished the sublime from the canonical discourse of literary modernism. Starting in the early 1970s, however, following the work of Harold Bloom, Neil Hertz, and Thomas Weiskel, the sublime...
3. Hamlet, Little Dorrit, and the History of Character
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The upshot of the theory movement, contrary to what many have understood, pointed toward finding what it will take to forge a new literary history. From Fredric Jameson’s slogan, ‘‘always historicize,’’ to Michel Foucault’s genealogies, to the critiques of traditional (teleological, periodizing...
4. The Struggle for the Cultural Heritage: Christina Stead Refunctions Charles Dickens and Mark Twain
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The received cultural values with which we academic literary intellectuals most closely involve ourselves are the values of the ‘‘cultural treasures,’’ the canonized masterpieces, for which we serve our students as intermediaries.1 In the years between the first and the second world wars, the established canon and its transmission faced strenuous challenge and probing discussion...
5. The Birth of Huck’s Nation
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My book ‘‘Huckleberry Finn’’ as Idol and Target was written to challenge dominant commonplaces of American literary study and education.1 This chapter arose from an invitation to develop the book’s perspectives for an international interdisciplinary discussion concerning the relationships between...
II. Language and Reality in the Age of the Novel
6. Narrative Form and Social Sense in Bleak House and The French Revolution
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Juxtaposing The French Revolution (1837) and Bleak House (1852–53) allows us to define why Charles Dickens at his best can feel like Thomas Carlyle, and to describe the literary mode that history and the novel share in Victorian writing. Although Dickens wanted to have ‘‘Carlyle above all’’ present...
7. Rhetoric and Realism: Hyperbolein The Mill on the Floss
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My title does not signal a contrast between rhetoric taken as empty and deceitful words and realism taken as the novelist’s attempt to present life ‘‘as it really was.’’ Rather, it suggests the cooperation of rhetorical self-consciousness in making the modern Western tradition of prose fiction. The...
8. Rhetoric and Realism; or, Marxism, Deconstruction, and Madame Bovary
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The terms of my title suggest certain kinds of questions that are asked nowadays by serious critics of novels. These questions were not asked, or considered serious, in America when the premises of New Criticism still dominated the agenda, not even by critics like Harry Levin or Lionel Trilling...
9. Baudelaire’s Impure Transfers: Allegory, Translation, Prostitution, Correspondence
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Charles Baudelaire lived in a world even more aware than our own of rapid transformations in every aspect of life. The very term ‘‘modernity,’’ which figures importantly in his writings, only came into the French language during his youth. By the time he published Les fleurs du mal, in 1857, he had...
10. Huckleberry Finn without Polemic
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Everyone thinks they remember the story, but the voice is what really lingers. Huckleberry Finn, the preteen boy who narrates the novel, and his companion, Jim, a runaway slave, are floating on a raft down the Mississippi in the American South of the 1840s. Jim is in danger of being captured and...
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Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2010