Knowing the Past: Victorian Literature and Culture

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To what extent is it possible to know the past or to know other cultures? Can one describe the past without imposing one's own cultural, political, social, or personal preconceptions? Testing the current skepticism that insists that it is impossible not to read one's own moment onto other times and cultures, the essays in this collection use the Victorian era as a means of developing a theory and critique of historical reclamation.In Knowing the Past, a distinguished group of Victorian scholars reflect on the Victorian past and examine the Victorians' own sophisticated contributions to debates about historical and cultural knowledge. Confronting, confirming, and opposing the skeptics, the essays provide close readings of particular texts. They encompass the larger constellation of ideas and questions that went into the making of the texts while participating in larger theoretical debates about knowledge of the past and other cultures.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Suzy Anger's timely and fascinating collection, 'Knowing the Past,' brings together essays by a pantheon of Victorian scholars. . . . A compelling collection of top-notch essays"—Christine DeVine. Journal of Pre-Raphaelite Studies, Vol.12, Spr. 03

"Taken as a whole, the essays not only make us reflect on the challenges of our practices as Victorianists, but they also compel us to interrogate our own stances, our own methodological assumptions, about attempting to encounter and understand artifacts from the past."—Kate Flint, Rutgers University, Nineteenth Century Literature 57:4, March 2003

"Anger's introduction sets out to recuperate values of objectivity and historical knowledge on ethical and political grounds. . . . One testimony to the general interest of Anger's project is the very high caliber of scholars appearing in this collection. . . . In sum, the volume offers a fairly hopeful perspective—or at least counters a casually cynical perspective—on our prospects for knowing other times and places. It does so, however, only in part by telling us things we didn't know. Its signature move is to urge renewed and candid reflections on how we know."—David Wayne Thomas, University of Michigan, Journal of Modern Literature Vol 26 No. 11, Fall 2003

"Progress in cultural and literary studies often comes not through answering received questions but through loosening their grip upon us, giving us a new picture of what matters. Shrewd in their assessments, imaginative in their approaches, the learned essays in Knowing the Past amply achieve this sort of progress."—Andrew H. Miller, Indiana University

"Suzy Anger's Knowing the Past assembles original and important scholarship by some of the most prominent critics in the field of Victorian studies. It offers original and important research into many areas of Victorian culture, and it assembles a number of refreshing and instructive approaches to the difficulties of producing historical interpretation in a postmodern age."—John Kucich, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801487651
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 11/28/2001
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Suzy Anger is Associate Professor of English at the University of British Columbia.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Knowing the Victorians 1
I Theorizing the Victorians
1 Text vs. Hypertext: Seeing the Victorian Object as in Itself It Really Is 25
2 The Golden Bough and the Unknowable 32
3 Daniel Deronda: A New Epistemology 52
II Victorians Theorizing
4 Walter Pater's Impressionism and the Form of Historical Revival 77
5 Arnold and the Authorization of Criticism 100
6 Aesthetics, Ethics, and Unreadable Acts in George Eliot 121
III Continuities
7 The Structure of Anxiety in Political Economy and Hard Times 151
8 How to Be a Benefactor without Any Money: The Chill of Welfare in Great Expectations 172
9 Tracking the Sentimental Eye 192
IV Victorian Meanings
10 Knowing and Telling in Dickens's Retrospects 215
11 Inside the Shark's Mouth: William Lovett's Struggle for Political Language 234
12 Knowing a Life: Edith Simcox - Sat est vixisse? 252
Notes on Contributors 267
Index 271
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