“The burden of the past” invoked by any discussion of eclecticism is a familiar aspect of modernity, particularly in the history of literature. The Age of Eclecticism: Literature and Culture in Britain, 1815–1885 by Christine Bolus-Reichert aims to reframe that dynamic and to place it in a much broader context by examining the rise of a manifold eclecticism in the nineteenth century. Bolus-Reichert focuses on two broad understandings of eclecticism in the period—one understood as an unreflective embrace of either conflicting beliefs or divergent historical styles, the other a mode of critical engagement that ultimately could lead to a rethinking of the contrast between creation and criticism and of the very idea of the original. She also contributes to the emerging field of transnational Victorian studies and, in doing so, finds a way to talk about a broader, post-Romantic nineteenth-century culture.
By reviving eclecticism as a critical term, Bolus-Reichert historicizes the theoretical language available to us for describing how Victorian culture functioned—in order to make the terrain of Victorian scholarship international and comparative and create a place for the Victorians in the genealogy of postmodernism. The Age of Eclecticism gives Victorianists—and other students of nineteenth-century literature and culture—a new perspective on familiar debates that intersect in crucial ways with issues still relevant to literature in an age of multiculturalism and postmodernism.
In this groundbreaking book, Jessica Martell investigates the relationship between industrial food and the emergence of literary modernisms in Britain and Ireland. By the early twentieth century, the industrialization of the British Empire’s food system had rendered many traditional farming operations, and attendant agrarian ways of life, obsolete. Weaving insights from modernist studies, food studies, and ecocriticism, Farm to Form contends that industrial food made nature “modernist,” a term used as literary scholars understand it—stylistically disorienting, unfamiliar, and artificial but also exhilarating, excessive, and above all, new. Martell draws in part upon archives in the United Kingdom but also presents imperial foodways as an extended rehearsal for the current era of industrial food supremacy. She analyzes how pastoral mode, anachronism, fragmentation, and polyvocal narration reflect the power of the literary arts to reckon with—and to resist—the new “modernist ecologies” of the twentieth century.
Deeply informed by Martell’s extensive knowledge of modern British, Irish, American, and World Literatures, this progressive work positions modernism as central to the study of narratives of resistance against social and environmental degradation. Analyzed works include those of Thomas Hardy, E. M. Forster, Virginia Woolf, Joseph Conrad, George Russell, and James Joyce.
In light of climate change, fossil fuel supremacy, nutritional dearth, and other pressing food issues, modernist texts bring to life an era of crisis and anxiety similar to our own. In doing so, Martell summons the past as a way to employ the modernist term of “defamiliarizing” the present so that entrenched perceptions can be challenged. Our current food regime is both new and constantly evolving with the first industrial food trades. Studying earlier cultural responses to them invites us to return to persistent problems with new insights and renewed passion.
All of us remember our First Love. In this brilliant and often passionate book, Maria DiBattista shows that the yearning for the freshness of First Love, and the sadness of that yearning, are central to modern literature. DiBattista offers a sweeping and wholly original reinterpretation of modern fiction, allowing us to see the romantic affections that lie behind the seemingly most ironic of modernist texts.
DiBattista argues that modernity reinvented First Love as a myth of creative initiative, as its characteristic response to a pervasive sense of historical belatedness. Anxious that its own creations can never be more than diminished forms of mightier originals, modernity idolizes First Love as the beginning that can never be repeated. First Love hence epitomizes the dream of a new self-incarnation. From Turgenev's First Love to the formative works of Virginia Woolf, Gertrude Stein, E. M. Forster, and Vladimir Nabokov, First Love confirms the birth of an artistic vocation. For modern men and women intent on becoming the original authors of their own lives, First Love becomes paradigmatic of those life-altering moments that transform the undifferentiated sequence of days into a fateful narrative.
DiBattista focuses on the enunciation of First Love in the fiction of Thomas Hardy, D. H. Lawrence, James Joyce, and Samuel Beckett. In reading their works, DiBattista dramatically revises the accepted view of irony as the dominant tone of modernism. First Love constitutes, she shows, a new apprehension of the world characterized not by the frigid distances of irony but by a belief in the creative individual who may begin the world anew, as if for the first time.
Jane Austen, George Eliot, and Thomas Hardy—three great masters of the English novel—are three remarkable imagining minds. As readers of their novels, we feel ourselves to be in contact with their authorial minds and conjure the minds they create spread across the pages of their narrative worlds. In the way that we believe in and hold in mind the idea that other human beings have minds of their own do we as readers of the novel believe we are in the presence of these other minds. But how?
Imagining Minds explores how the novels of Austen, Eliot, and Hardy create the felt-quality of their authoring minds and of the minds they author by bringing their writing in relation to cognitive neuroscience accounts of the mind-brain, especially of William James and Antonio Damasio. It is in that relational space between the novels and theories of mind-brain that Kay Young works through her fundamental claim: the novel writes about the nature of mind, narrates it at work, and stimulates us to know deepened experiences of consciousness in its touching of our reading minds.
While, in addition to James and Damasio, Young draws on a range of theories of mind-brain generated by current research in philosophy, neuroscience, cognitive science, psychology, psychiatry, and psychoanalysis to help her understand the novel’s imagining of mind, her claim is that those disciplines cannot themselves perform the more fully integrated because embodied and emotionally stimulating mind work of thenovel—mind work that prompts us as their readers to better know our own minds.
The Phantom of Thomas Hardy
Floyd Skloot University of Wisconsin Press, 2016 Library of Congress PS3569.K577P53 2016 | Dewey Decimal 813.54
On a street in Dorchester, England, there is a gateway between real and imagined lives. A plaque identifies a Barclays Bank building as “lived in by the Mayor of Casterbridge in Thomas Hardy’s story of that name written in 1885.”
In this imaginative novel, worlds continue to collide as Floyd, an American writer recovering from a devastating neuro-viral attack, and his wife, Beverly, immerse themselves in Hardy’s world. While pondering the enigma of a fictional character living in a factual building, Floyd is approached by Hardy himself—despite his death in 1928.
This phantom—possibly conjured out of Floyd’s damaged brain—tasks the Americans with finding out what Hardy missed in love. Embarking on their quest, they visit Hardy’s birthplace, home, and grave, exploring the Dorset landscape and the famous novels with their themes of tormented love. Peering into the Victorian past, they slowly dismantle the clutter of screens that Hardy placed around his private life, even as their own love story unfolds, filled with healing and hope.
Mark Ford Harvard University Press, 2016 Library of Congress PR4753.F67 2016 | Dewey Decimal 823.8
Because Thomas Hardy’s poetry and fiction are so closely associated with Wessex, it is easy to forget that he was, in his own words, half a Londoner, moving between country and capital throughout his life. This self-division, Mark Ford says, can be traced not only in works explicitly set in London but in his most regionally circumscribed novels.
The imagery of brains and nerves that Thomas Hardy employed in over a half century of writing amply demonstrates that he knew the psychology of his time. Thomas Hardy’s Brains: Psychology, Neurology, and Hardy’s Imagination reevaluates Hardy’s representations of minds, the will, and consciousness (and nescience) in the context of Victorian brain science and Victorian medical neurology. Susanne Keen traces his reading from his early twenties until his old age in sources such as The Literary Notebooks, collections of reading notes made by Hardy from the 1860s onward. In showing how Hardy the reader informed Hardy the novelist and poet, she gives new insight into the unusual techniques Hardy used to represent fictional consciousness in his fiction and shows how the image schemas in his poetry embody his convictions.
This study reveals how Hardy made sense of diverse sources of an affective human psychology, a discipline that expanded significantly during Hardy’s working life. From the 1870s to the turn of the twentieth century, the tools and techniques for studying the structures and function of the nervous system developed rapidly. Simultaneously, Hardy moved steadily toward realizing a more physiologically accurate rendering of brains and nerves.
Contrary to some scholars, tragic poetry did not die with the rise of melodrama in nineteenth-century theater or the glowing secularism spread by the proliferation of liberal-scientific philosophies. Rather, artists found alternative means to portray tragic situations.Thomas Hardy's Tragic Poetry convincingly argues that Hardy's lyric poetry and The Dynasts occupy a pivotal place in the development of modern tragic poetry and drama, crystallizing the tragic feeling that surfaces intermittently in Romantic and Victorian poems and plays.
Many scholars have noted the tragic forms and themes of Thomas Hardy's novels, but the tragic quality of his lyric poems has received less critical attention. Katherine Maynard remedies that situation by tracing the emergence of the Hardyean figure—tragically isolated against the backdrop of a stark landscape, neutral universe, or indifferent social milieu—through both a review of critical opinion about tragedy's place within modern literature and a survey of the frustrated attempts by major nineteenth-century poets to write tragic drama. Hardy's epic-drama The Dynasts is seen as a fulcrum work, bearing many of the flaws of its dramatic forebears but also illustrating his use of contemporary science and philosophy in the service of dramatic irony. Maynard examines a significant sample of lyrics to identify the contribution of Hardy's poetry to our understanding of tragic literature. She places the thematic and formal innovations of Hardy's tragic poetry squarely within the main lines of development from Wordsworth's Solitary to Beckett's lone figures waiting in a desert for a Godot who never arrives.
Ultimately, Thomas Hardy's Tragic Poetry calls for a rereading of Hardy's poetry as "tragic," arguing that he was able, paradoxically, to incorporate these literary and philosophical conventions of his time which some critics insist signaled the death of tragic literature. This study will prove fascinating for Hardyists, students of nineteenth-century literature, and all those interested in the ongoing development of poetry.