Realism, Photography and Nineteenth-Century Fiction

Realism, Photography and Nineteenth-Century Fiction

by Daniel A. Novak
     
 

This fascinating account of the relationship between photography and literary realism in Victorian Britain draws on detailed readings of photographs, writings about photography, and fiction by Charles Dickens, George Eliot and Oscar Wilde. While other critics have argued that photography defined what would be 'real' for literary fiction, Daniel A. Novak

Overview

This fascinating account of the relationship between photography and literary realism in Victorian Britain draws on detailed readings of photographs, writings about photography, and fiction by Charles Dickens, George Eliot and Oscar Wilde. While other critics have argued that photography defined what would be 'real' for literary fiction, Daniel A. Novak demonstrates that photography itself was associated with the unreal - with fiction and the literary imagination. Once we acknowledge that manipulation was essential rather than incidental to the project of nineteenth-century realism, our understanding of the relationship between photography and fiction changes in important ways. Novak argues that while realism may seem to make claims to particularity and individuality, both in fiction and in photography, it relies much more on typicality than on perfect reproduction. Illustrated with many photographs, this book represents an important contribution to current debates on the nature of Victorian realism.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Novak’s arguments about photography and realism overturn widely accepted assumptions. It is surprising to see photography characterized not by fidelity to the real but by abstraction and typicality, and realism characterized not by verisimilitude and the accurate portrayal of the everyday world but by formal strategies designed to unify and generalize the novel’s representations. Moreover, the relation Novak establishes between these two domains suggests a counter narrative to the prevailing critical consensus found in influential scholarship by Nancy Armstrong and Jennifer Green-Lewis...By drawing our attention to these countercurrents in nineteenth-century culture, Novak’s book does a great service. [...] (His) actual achievement is to highlight a neglected vein of nineteenth-century literature and visual culture, one that makes sense of some of the most important yet eccentric masterpieces of the era and positions them crucially as an alternative approach to the question of realism."
-Jay Clayton, Vanderbilt University, NOVEL

"Novak has produced the kind of tour-de-force that rewards the diligent reader's trust. It is now our task to re-read previous studies like Jennifer Green-Lewis's Framing the Victorians (1996) and Nancy Armstrong's Fiction in the Age of Photography (1999) in dialogue with Novak's insights, and to explore the implications of Novak's discoveries for new undertakings such as Ruth Bernard Yeazell's Art of the Everyday (2008) as they enter our critical terrain."
-Victorian Studies

"Realism, Photography, and Nineteenth-Century Fiction offers an original and nuanced analysis of the relation between Victorian realist novels and nineteenth-century photography."
Nineteenth Century Literature

"this is one of the most inspired and inspiring books I have read in a while...In his intriguing ‘after-image’, Novak compares digital photography to composition photography in Victorian practice and wonders whether digital technology produces a real departure from photographic tradition. I think that it is in connections like this that this book succeeds in full."
- The Oscholars

"This is a highly original book; undoubtedly it adds a new perspective to the study of literature and photography..."
-Modern Philology

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780521885256
Publisher:
Cambridge University Press
Publication date:
05/28/2008
Series:
Cambridge Studies in Nineteenth-Century Literature and Culture Series, #60
Pages:
252
Product dimensions:
7.10(w) x 9.70(h) x 0.90(d)

Meet the Author

Daniel A. Novak is Assistant Professor of English at Louisiana State University.

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