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412 Partial Answers by mutual attraction, but they are kept alien to one another by age, religion, and temperament. Eventually, as Kraft claims, they “cloak themselves in selfishness, defensiveness, rigidity, coldness when faced with the strangeness of one another ” (174). If Kraft is right that Elmwood eventually redeems himself by learning to listen to the desires of his daughter Matilda — and, by doing so, responding “most profoundly to the echo of her mother’s voice” (177) — then this suggests an imperfect compromise. Ultimately, it attests powerfully to the inscrutability, rather than the legibility, of desire. Jesse Molesworth Indiana University Works Cited Behn,Aphra. 2008. The Rover and Other Plays. Ed. Jane Spencer. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Lacan, Jacques. 2006. “Kant with Sade.” In Écrits. Trans. Bruce Fink. New York: Norton, pp. 645–68. Mary Jean Corbett, Family Likeness: Sex, Marriage, and Incest from Jane Austen to Virginia Woolf. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 2008. 264 pp. John Sayles’s 1996 movie Lone Star begins by uncovering a decades-old murder and ends with an incestuous embrace. The final scene of the film poses our hero — a small-town sheriff who has just solved the murder — with his lover, a high school history teacher who, he has recently learned, is his half-sister. Sitting on the hood of a car, his sister-lover takes his hand as she explains that she can no longer bear children. “That’s what it’s about, right, that incest thing,” she says, reassuring herself that their own relationship will have no biological issue. Staring at the blank screen of an abandoned drive-in theater, she looks into an unimaginable future: “All that other stuff, all that history? To hell with it, right?” The film’s linked concerns with class, race, family, and history are inflected in a peculiarly American way, making the lawlessness of the border town setting an ideal backdrop for Sayles’s story. Reading Mary Jean Corbett’s Family Likeness : Sex, Marriage, and Incest from Jane Austen to Virginia Woolf, however, I was struck by the continuity between Sayles’s film and its novelistic predecessors , the family fictions that constitute at least one important aspect of the history of the novel from the early nineteenth through the early twentieth centuries . As Corbett persuasively demonstrates, the past is no purer, or simpler, or less conflicted about the various demands of kinship than the present, and the novelists most notably associated with the concept of “domestic fiction” were unavoidably alive to the contradictions of kin. Partial Answers 8/2: 412–414 © 2010 The Johns Hopkins University Press 413 Book Reviews Corbett’s book follows from and expands on a number of earlier studies illuminating the relationship between family and fiction, among them works by Ruth Perry, Sharon Marcus, Helena Michie, Leila Silvana May, Marianne Novy, and Karen Chase and Michael Levenson. For the most part, Corbett’s work concerns itself with familiar, canonical texts: Wuthering Heights, Mansfield Park, Jane Eyre, The Mill on the Floss, and Wives and Daughters. But by linking the novels through their shared concerns with making and unmaking family — through marriage, adoption, and friendship — and by expanding her range into the twentieth century with a sensitive rereading of Virginia Woolf’s The Years alongside The Pargiters and fragments of memoir, Corbett complicates our understanding of the tradition of domestic fiction. The centerpiece of the monograph is a reading of the Marriage with a Deceased Wife’s Sister (MDWS) controversy that spans most of Corbett’s period. The controversy touches various of her authors in different ways — from Maria Branwell’s presence in the Brontë household to the intimacy between Vanessa Stephen and her half-sister’s widower, Jack Hills; from the marriage between Jane Austen’s brother Charles and his sister-in-law to Leslie Stephen’s outrage at his sister-in-law Anny Thackeray’s late marriage (and thus her departure from his household). Corbett juxtaposes novels (especially Harriet Martineau’s Deerbrook and Felicia Skene’s The Inheritance of Evil) with pamphlets and speeches representing both sides of the controversy, thus locating in the debate a pervasive and unresolved concern with the claims of consanguinity and affinity in the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-9247
Print ISSN
1565-3668
Pages
pp. 412-414
Launched on MUSE
2010-06-13
Open Access
No
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