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Reviews Rohan Amanda Maitzen, Gender, Genre, and Victorian Historical Writing. New York and London: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1998. xvii + 229. Rohan Maitzen charts new territory in Gender, Genre, and Victorian Historical Writing, introducing readers to works ofa range ofhistorians little considered by Victorianists trained in literary study. Addressing the issue ofhow Victorians broached the thorny issue ofwhat constituted historical significance, she argues that women writers — a group that includes not only George Eliot, but also Agnes Strickland, Elizabeth Stone, Frances Palgrave, Annie Forbes Bush, Julia Kavanagh, and Hannah Lawrence, among others — capitalized on instabilities in existing models ofhistory to "broaden the range ofmeanings that could be articulated" (xiii). Among the book's considerable virtues is Maitzen's consistent attention to the relationship of these writers, and the issues raised by their approaches to historiography to a more canonical and male-dominated tradition represented most visibly by Macaulay, Carlyle, and Froude. Far from arguing that women's historical writing constitutes a separate tradition, Maitzen instead uncovers a range ofways that both amateur and professional historiographers grappled with the vexed Victorian idea (1) of feminine "influence." While in her introduction Maitzen calls attention to a "new category offacts" about women that emerged in the nineteenth century and altered the landscape ofhistorical writing, her subsequent chapters appeal to domestic ideology more generally. Chapter One, "The Victorian Discourse of History: Problems of Gender and Genre," sets the stage for understanding conflicts within historiography that underwrote the histories produced by women, and provides a convincing overview ofhow Victorian historians and critics advocating new criteria for history writing "almost certainly without meaning to" enabled women writers to enter the field (24). I found her discussion of the "valorization of details" as both aesthetic principle and historical substance especially interesting, and Maitzen is adept at showing how stylistic choices were invested with social and political significance. That said, the chapter might have established a 1 32volume 26 number 2 Reviews more precise account of factors influencing the "turn to the domestic and everyday" (23), what in the next chapter becomes the "turn to social history" (34), or in chapter four the "new and controversial field ofsocial history" (102). Chapter Two, "A Clique of Living Clios: Nineteenth-Century Women Historians," belongs to an array ofscholarship showing how Victorian women appropriated authority. Maitzen's achievement is to assess how they accomplished this without attempting "to masquerade as masculine" (55). Focusing on the rhetoric ofexemplarity that characterized many historical biographies, she begins by suggesting that the didacticism built in to the public role ofthe historian/sage was one not easily accommodated by women, but she goes on to reveal the crucial pedagogical work performed by their texts. In this chapter, I found myselfwishing that Maitzen had had the advantage ofpositioning her argument in relation to other recent scholars whose works came out when her own was no doubt "in press." Adrienne Munich's Queen Victoria's Secrets and Margaret Homans' Royal Representations would have provided an illuminating backdrop to her discussion ofthe ways Agnes Strickland and Hannah Lawrence represented queens and might have helped Maitzen think through Victoria's own role in influencing contemporary historiography. Kate Flint is footnoted at one point, but her work on the woman reader might have been more thoroughly integrated throughout Gender, Genre and Victorian Historical Writing. Chapter Three, "Stitches in Time: Needlework and Victorian Historiography," examines the "unexpected intersection of two discourses during the period: needlework and historiography" (61). Maitzen shows that the feminized art of needlework served as a metaphorical and practical alternative to traditional conceptions of history, "in the process fixing gender as a constant and conspicuous component ofthe debate" (62). At times I questioned the logic of her claims. Does the fact that needlework crossed class boundaries necessarily mean that those boundaries were thereby "obscured," as she contends? Despite some questions, I could not help but be impressed by Maitzen's close reading skills, which enable her to Victorian Review133 Reviews uncover a treasure trove ofevidence, much ofit gleaned from periodicals, to support her claims. In the Quarterly Review, for example, she finds a discussion ofMacaulay that critiques him for finding that "history itselfwould be much more popular with a large...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1923-3280
Print ISSN
0848-1512
Pages
pp. 132-136
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-07
Open Access
No
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