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NoveL· ofEverydayLife: The Series in English Fiction, 1850-1930. Laurie Langbauer. Laurie Langbauer's recentlypublished NoveL· ofEverydayLife; The Series in English Fiction, 1850-1930 is an ambitious examination ofthe "everyday" as a divergently (and sometimes oppositionally) déployable term ofauthority, value, and credibility in several cultural domains: social , critical, and literary. Her access to an ideological web which she locates among the implications ofthe term is not simply the Victorians' near-fetishization of the quotidian for its apparent stability-as both a representational mode and fundamental constituent ofthe real," "the material," "the unremarkable"-butalso thesame type ofsignifyingprivilege granted it (however unconsciously) by the interdisciplinary industry ofcriticsspawned in theera's fertilepassage. On thisbasis, then, Langbauer undertakes a scrupulously contextualized theorization ofthe vital connective links forging identity and culture" within a selection of both nineteenth-centuiy fiction and twentieth-centurysocial andliterarytheory, which act, alternately, as the primary and secondary texts ofher analyses (6). However complex the methodology ofthis widely critical gaze may seem to become, Langbauer also narrates, here, a highly coherent and finely nuanced histoiy ofthe literary industry (and its definitively endless mode ofcapitalist reproduction) as both constitutedby and constitutive ofsuch ineffable social gestures as gendered value, cultural capital, and professional identity. By first almost epigrammaticallysummarizing the work of a number of canonical theorists—Marx, Freud, Fanon, Horkheimer, Adorno, Lukács, Kristeva, Said, Spivak, Bhabha, and Butler to namejust a handful-and then teasing out the implications oftheir investment in and deployment ofthe everyday," Langbauer develops a critical methodology which incorporates (as it examines) many of her subjects' most evocatively productive concepts: Marxisms concernswith false consciousness and the inevitability ofmarket forces, for instance; cultural materialism's insistence upon "part-publication [as] not only reflect[ing] the ideological assumptions ofthe time but [also doing] the work thatinstalled and consolidated thatideology" (9); poststructuralism's "recognition that all anyonecan do is gesture to the real," which is to say, VictorianJííi/i'fií/ 11Í reviews ofcourse, the everyday, withouteverhoping to "transform it into what it is not" (20); and psychoanalysis's complication ofthe ideas ofseparation and identity in all relationships between generations, whether "real" or fictional, human or literary. Much ofthe groundwork for this sweeping and self-aware consideration ofwhat emerges as a highly conflicted and competitive cultural industryderives its energeticaccess from herintroduction's contention that "[t]he everydaybecomes a crucial category [despite its conflicting registers and assumptions, as well as its totalizing potential] because its consolidations and deconstructions touch directly on the subject's relation to ideology and culture" (22-23). Therange ofsubjects towhich Langbauer refers here, however, is not limited to the theoretical canon, but includes such authors as Margaret Oliphant, CharlotteYonge, AnthonyTrollope, Arthur Conan Doyle, Dorothy Richardson, Virginia Woolf, and John Galsworthy, each ofwhose "entwining oftheseries and the everyday puts into question any unexamined notion ofhistory [including literary history ] as teleology, rise, growth, or progress" (36-37). Chapter One ("Minor Fiction, Endless Progress: Towards a Feminist Ethics") charts the ideological play between the figure ofwoman (as represented by the prolific serialists Oliphant and Yonge), the everyday, and the gendered divide which enables the term to be contradictorily deployed as the nonetheless stabilizedjustification forauthors' attributions with radically different degrees and kinds ofcultural capital. Langbauer argues in this chapter that it is precisely thesewomen's explicit acceptance oftheir "minor status" and their ceaseless public "mastery" ofdomestic realism's dailiness which reveals "the continued political problems ofascribing fixed position and value to literary forms" and cultural status (60). She goes on to use the emergent conclusions of this analysis to show how thesewomen query the authority ofthe "great tradition [the canon,] . . . make clear that [it] is not essential, unbiased, outside time or interest . . . but constructed by a body ofadherents who profit from its strict and narrow limits" (80). Chapter Two ("The Everyday as Everything: Pushing the Limits of Culture in Trollope's Series Fiction") carries on the investigation ofthe constructedness ofthe everyday as a "category that gets passed offas the real itself," but also addresses poststructuralism's awareness ofthe catego119 volume 25 mint be r 2 rys formal status (89). Here, Langbauer alternatelyapplies this chapter's guiding principle-"the everyday in its relation to the series" seems to promise a utopie penetration or comprehensibility...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1923-3280
Print ISSN
0848-1512
Pages
pp. 118-121
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-07
Open Access
No
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