The Oxford English Literary History: The Victorians 1830-1880 (Oxford English Literary History Series)

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The Oxford English Literary History is the new century's definitive account of a rich and diverse literary heritage that stretches back for a millennium and more.

Each of these groundbreaking volumes offers a leading scholar's considered assessment of the authors, works, cultural traditions. events, and ideas that shaped the literary voices of their age. The series will enlighten and inspire not only everyone studying, teaching, and researching in English Literature, but all serious readers.

The Victorian era produced a literature of diversity and experimentation, engaged with powerful controversies and heartfelt arguments that lie at the center of the formation of the modern world. It has often been misrepresented, either as an age of dull and rigid certainty or one of anxious and depressive morbidity, but what distinguishes the writing of the period—from its origins in the 1830s to its crisis point around 1880—is its power of serious inquiry. It poses questions about the relation between society and the individual, the rival claims of market and morality, the form and function of democracy, and, above all, the existence or non-existence of God and the purposes of human life. Such concerns make this a time in which literature has a new urgency and vitality, and lies close to the heart of a culminating crisis of the Western conscience.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This is an imaginative, penetrating, often idiosyncratic history, written with brio.... Davis has written a book of breathtaking depth as well as breadth."—The Atlantic Monthly

"[A] magnificent work of literary engagement and partisanship.... The development and mission of realism in the novel make up only one of the areas on which Davis sheds light, and he has marvelous chapters on nature, mind, religion, publishing, theater, and poetry. His prose possesses an insistent spiritual vigor and is free of the ham-fisted parlance and empty cunning of 'lit-crit.'"—Katherine Powers, Boston Globe

"In Volume Eight of The Oxford English Literary History, Philip Davis has risen to the challenge [of containing the literary history of the Victorians within a single volume] with passionate energy.... The result is a book that animates a bank of information with the force of personal commitment. It will stand as a persuasive affirmation of why the Victorians are still worth reading."—Times Literary Supplement

"The a brilliant book. It would be a pity if contemporary scepticism about literary history meant that Philip Davis doesn't get the credit he deserves for dealing in such a masterly way with the vast quantity of material he tackles.... Anyone with a serious interest in the period will find it immensely rewarding."—Charlotte Mitchell, The Spectator

"The new Oxford English Literary History series [is] destined to become a standard academic source.... Advanced undergraduates will join lifelong learners in praising these volumes as sources of renewed and renewable literary energy."—The Providence Journal

"The intelligent and discriminating overview presented by this early volume bodes well for the overall quality of the [Oxford English Literary History] series. Davis presents a neat survey of the key social, economic, and intellectual trends which shaped the Victorian period's literature. The volume is especially noteworthy for the generous place granted to the voices of contemporary writers and thinkers."—Virginia Quarterly Review

"An absorbing and often very moving reflection of deep intellectual immersion in the nineteenth century.... Davis's work will reward the reader with a view of Victorian literature that is richly textured, emotionally and morally engaged, and full of unshowy intellectual sophistication of a high order.... It is impossible to do justice to the richness of Davis's readings.... Produced on high-quality paper, with full scholarly apparatus (including a useful sixty-page section of author biographies), this passionate and distinctive book will challenge general readers and scholars alike. The finest compliment that can be paid to Philip Davis, however, is that the hero of his work is really English language as used by the Victorians."—Dickens Quarterly

"[A] remarkable scholarly achievement.... The Victorians succeeds wonderfully. Its discussion of the development of realist techniques...; its juxtaposition of Darwin and Ruskin as students of nature; its assessment of the peculiar resonance of evangelical and tractarian impulses: all speak of an articulate mind working with confidence."—Studies in English Literature 1500-1900

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780198184478
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 12/28/2002
  • Series: Oxford English Literary History Series
  • Pages: 648
  • Product dimensions: 8.70 (w) x 5.60 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Philip Davis is Reader in English Literature, University of Liverpool.
Jonathan Bate (General Editor) is King Alfred Professor of English Literature, University of Liverpool. His books include Shakespeare and Ovid, The Genius of Shakespeare, and The Cure for Love.

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Table of Contents

1. Rural to Urban 1830-1850
2. Nature
3. Religion
4. Mind
5. Conditions of Literary Production
6. The Drama
7. Debatable Lands: Variety of Form and Genre in the Early Victorian Novel
8. Alternative Fictions
9. High Realism
10. Lives and Thoughts
11. Poetry
Author Bibliographies
Suggestions for Further Reading

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