The Ohio State University Press

Victorian Critical Interventions

Edited by Donald E. Hall

Published by: The Ohio State University Press

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Victorian Critical Interventions

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The Affective Life of the Average Man

The Victorian Novel and the Stock-Market Graph

What do the Victorian novel and the stock-market graph have in common? In The Affective Life of the Average Man: The Victorian Novel and the Stock-Market Graph, ,, Audrey Jaffe explores the influence on modern subjectivity of an economic and emotional discourse constructed by both the Victorian novel and the stock market. The book shows how the novel and the market define character as fundamentally vicarious, and how the graphs, tickers, and pulses that represent the stock market function for us, as the novel did for the Victorians, as both representation and source of collective expectations and emotions. A rereading of key Victorian texts, this volume is also a rereading of the relation between Victorian and contemporary culture, describing the way contemporary accounts of such phenomena as frauds, bubbles, and the economics of happiness reproduce Victorian narratives and assumptions about character. Jaffe draws on the work of nineteenth- and twentieth-century economic and political theorists, popular discourse about the stock market, and novelistic representations of emotion and identity to offer new readings of George Eliot’s Middlemarch, Anthony Trollope’s The Prime Minister, and Charles Dickens’s David Copperfield and Little Dorrit. Charting a new understanding of the relation between money, emotions, and identity, The Affective Life of the Average Man makes a significant contribution to Victorian studies, economic criticism, and the study of the history and representation of emotion.

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Detecting the Nation

Fictions of Detection and the Imperial Venture

In Detecting the Nation Reitz argues that detective fiction was essential both to public acceptance of the newly organized police force in early Victorian Britain and to acclimating the population to the larger venture of the British Empire. In doing so, Reitz challenges literary-historical assumptions that detective fiction is a minor domestic genre that reinforces a distinction between metropolitan center and imperial periphery. Rather, Reitz argues, nineteenth-century detective fiction helped transform the concept of an island kingdom to that of a sprawling empire; detective fiction placed imperialism at the center of English identity by recasting what had been the suspiciously un-English figure of the turn-of-the-century detective as the very embodiment of both English principles and imperial authority. She supports this claim through reading such masters of the genre as Godwin, Dickens, Collins, and Doyle in relation to narratives of crime and empire such as James Mill's History of British India, narratives about Thuggee, and selected writings of Kipling and Buchan. Detective fiction and writings more specifically related to the imperial project, such as political tracts and adventure stories, were inextricably interrelated during this time.

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Victorian Lessons in Empathy and Difference

Looking closely at the work of Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, and James McNeill Whistler, Rebecca N. Mitchellreframes conventional considerations of Victorian empathy and argues that the recognition of alterity, and not identification, is the basis of the intersubjectivity depicted in realist texts and paintings. In the nineteenth century, encounters with the other are represented through the disconnection between subjects within the novel or painting’s space; representation of that intersubjective inscrutability is elemental to the realist project. Victorian Lessons in Empathy and Difference amplifies the fundamental distinction between the characters within a text or image—who are intimately unknowable to each other—and the material texts and images—which are eminently knowable to the reader or viewer. To this end, Mitchell’s exploration of alterity is grounded in the tradition of Emmanuel Levinas, whose work establishes a vocabulary for considering otherness outside of dialectical oppositions, binaries which so often define recent constructions of Victorian subjectivity. The study turns explicitly from the usual paradigms for encountering Victorian otherness—race, gender, colonized status, or class—to focus instead on the representations of difference where proximity typically precludes the recognition of alterity.

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