NINETEENTH-CENTURY GENDER STUDIES 

ISSUE 1 (WINTER 2005)

 

Notable Books Received

Prepared by Sarah Alexander, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Ferguson, Frances. Pornography, the Theory: What Utilitarianism Did to Action. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2004.

In this innovative study, Frances Ferguson challenges Catharine MacKinnon’s vehement critique of pornography by regarding it as one of many practices that developed with modern utilitarianism (particularly as represented by the work of Jeremy Bentham). Both pornography and utilitarianism, according to Ferguson, underplay individual beliefs and emotions and evaluate actions in a relative way. Using various literary examples, including novels by Sade, Gustave Flaubert, D. H. Lawrence, and Bret Easton Ellis, Ferguson traces the history of the process of utilitarian objectification and assesses the power of the novel to critique utilitarianism.

Griffin, Susan. Anti-Catholicism and Nineteenth-Century Fiction. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2004.

Susan Griffin shows how the standard plots of anti-Catholic fiction written in nineteenth-century Britain and America provide a narrative language for analysis of cultural questions such as gender identities, education and citizenship, and Protestant self-critique. Treating the escaped nun’s tale as a genre, Griffin argues that such narratives, the most famous of which is Rebecca Reed’s Six Months in a Convent, condemn Catholicism as the religion of antidomesticity. Readings of novels by William Sewell and Frances Trollope reveal the heterogeneity of British Protestantism and illustrate the ideological versatility of anti-Catholic discourse. Taking such authors Eliza Lynn Linton, Orvilla Belisle, and Charlotte Brontë into consideration, Griffin investigates the centrality of marriage in the plots of anti-Catholic sensation novels and traces competing Catholic and Protestant versions of history in popular inheritance plots.

Keen, Suzanne. Victorian Renovations of the Novel: Narrative Annexes and the Boundaries of Representation. Cambridge Studies in Nineteenth-Century Literature and Culture 15. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1998.

“Narrative annexes,” as Suzanne Keen calls them, are sites of Victorian novelists’ negotiation with the conventional. Arising from shifts in genre and setting that change the world of the novel, annexes disrupt the norms of a story’s world and carry readers through a temporarily realized zone of difference. Keen finds narrative annexes in the novels of Thomas Hardy, Charlotte Brontë, Anthony Trollope, Charles Dickens, Benjamin Disraeli, and others. Such annexes—for example, the scene in Eliot’s Adam Bede in which Hetty Sorrel discovers a hidden pool as she grapples with thoughts of suicide—allowed Victorians to work their way past the representational barriers associated with nineteenth-century fiction and to address awkward, unsuitable, or embarrassing ideas, actions, and cultural anxieties.

Knox-Shaw, Peter. Jane Austen and the Enlightenment. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2004.

In his historical study of Jane Austen’s work, including the unfinished Sanditon, Peter Knox-Shaw takes aim at twentieth-century critics’ portrait of Austen as the quaint, stodgy voice of a middle-class aristocracy. Hardly the work of a Tory reactionary, Pride and Prejudice offers images of emancipation that reveal a keen awareness of the work of Adam Smith and Mary Wollstonecraft. In Mansfield Park, she responds to Smith’s and David Hume’s discussions of the relationship between social class and individual behavior. Taken together, Austen’s novels push the bounds of expression and unearth a system of morality shaped by the skeptical Enlightenment.

Krebs, Paula M. Gender, Race, and the Writing of Empire: Public Discourse and the Boer War. Cambridge Studies in Nineteenth-Century Literature and Culture 23. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1999.

In this in-depth study of late-nineteenth-century imperial ideology, Paula M. Krebs uses the writings of J. A. Hobson to argue that the wild London street celebrations that marked the end of the Boer War say less about British support for imperialism than they do about the power of the popular press to create and to promote imperial sentiment. According to Krebs, Boer War-era newspapers and propaganda, which addressed varying publics, reveal the dependence of imperial ideology on hierarchies of sex, race, and class. The Daily Mail’s and the Times’ distinctly pro-war coverage of South African concentration camps is examined, along with Arthur Conan Doyle’s and W. T. Stead’s uses of the Victorian notion of chivalry to shape the British public’s view of the new soldier of the Empire. The study also looks at Olive Schreiner’s pro-Boer writings, H. Rider Haggard’s popular adventure stories, and Rudyard Kipling’s literary attempts to create a unified British imperialist public.

Siegel, Jonah. Haunted Museum: Longing, Travel, and the Art-Romance Tradition. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2005.

Regarded throughout the nineteenth century as the natural home of genius, Italy is the birthplace of a literary tradition that Jonah Siegel calls the “art romance.” Modern and nostalgic at the same time, the art romance tells the story of the encounter between artistic self-imagination and the fantasies surrounding Italy. It also signals the emergence of a culturally dominant middle class in the nineteenth century. Readings of Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister, Byron’s Chile Harold, and Barrett Browning’s Aurora Leigh lead up to a lengthy study of the work of Henry James, who places quotation marks around “Europe” to indicate its power over the imagination. Forster’s Where Angels Fear to Tread, Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past, Mann’s Death in Venice, and Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams are examined as responses to the art romance tradition.