Dear Reader: The Conscripted Audience in Nineteenth-Century British Fiction

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"Ready now, reader? Easy then. That should put you in the right historical frame of mind, put you in mind of the right historical frame. For it did seem easier then, certainly more relaxed. Like the addressed and otherwise rendered nineteenth-century reader who is my subject of study, you are invited to take it slow while we back our way into the last century. We do so by moving from an unexpected modernist send-up of Victorian direct address, an early twist of phrase in E. M. Forster's 1907 The Longest Journey, to the underlying aesthetic of

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Overview

"Ready now, reader? Easy then. That should put you in the right historical frame of mind, put you in mind of the right historical frame. For it did seem easier then, certainly more relaxed. Like the addressed and otherwise rendered nineteenth-century reader who is my subject of study, you are invited to take it slow while we back our way into the last century. We do so by moving from an unexpected modernist send-up of Victorian direct address, an early twist of phrase in E. M. Forster's 1907 The Longest Journey, to the underlying aesthetic of classic realism on which even this one rhetorical irony is by no means intended to pull the plug. On the way back to the nineteenth century, certain realist assumptions help mark out our course."--from Dear Reader

With the "great tradition" from Austen through Dickens and Eliot to Hardy read here for the first time alongside the non-canonical best-sellers of the period, we get a revised picture of an evolving readership narrated rather than merely implied, the mass audience conscripted, written with, figured in. Redirecting response aesthetics away from the a priori reader function toward this reader figure, Garrett Stewart's Dear Reader intercepts two tendencies in the recent criticism of fiction: the blanket audience determinations of ideological critique and the thinness of historicizing discourse analysis when divorced from literary history's own discursive field.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801852831
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Publication date: 9/28/1996
  • Pages: 472
  • Product dimensions: 6.18 (w) x 9.26 (h) x 1.15 (d)

Meet the Author

Garrett Stewart is James O. Freedman Professor of Letters at the University of Iowa. He is the author of Dickens and the Trials of Imagination, Death Sentences: Styles of Dying in British Fiction, and Reading Voices: Literature and the Phonotext.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Ch. 1 Readers in the Making 3
Ch. 2 On Terms with the Readers: The Interpolated Audience 25
Ch. 3 Reflex Action: The Extrapolated Audience 55
Ch. 4 "Whomsoever It May Concern": Austen's Open Letters to the Reader 89
Ch. 5 In the Absence of Audience: Of Reading and Dread in Mary Shelley 113
Ch. 6 In "Dearing" the Reader: Popular Fiction, 1814-1918 133
Ch. 7 Telling Time: Reading Round the Dickensian Clock 173
Ch. 8 On Abymes: The Regress of Reception in Collins and Late Dickens 213
Ch. 9 "Oh, Romantic Reader": Relays of Desire in Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, and Villette 235
Ch. 10 The Book of the World: Thackeray to Meredith to Hardy 275
Ch. 11 Mordecai's Consumption: Afterlives of Interpretation in Daniel Deronda 301
Ch. 12 Grubbing for Readers at the Fin de Siecle 329
Ch. 13 The Gothic of Reading: Wilde, du Maurier, Stevenson, Stoker 343
Afterword: Caveat Lector 393
Notes 401
Index 447
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