Thinking without Thinking in the Victorian Novel by Vanessa L. Ryan, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble
Thinking without Thinking in the Victorian Novel

Thinking without Thinking in the Victorian Novel

by Vanessa L. Ryan
     
 

In Thinking without Thinking in the Victorian Novel, Vanessa L. Ryan demonstrates how both the form and the experience of reading novels played an important role in ongoing debates about the nature of consciousness during the Victorian era.

Revolutionary developments in science during the mid- and late nineteenth century—including the discoveries

Overview

In Thinking without Thinking in the Victorian Novel, Vanessa L. Ryan demonstrates how both the form and the experience of reading novels played an important role in ongoing debates about the nature of consciousness during the Victorian era.

Revolutionary developments in science during the mid- and late nineteenth century—including the discoveries and writings of Herbert Spencer, William Carpenter, and George Henry Lewes—had a vital impact on fiction writers of the time. Wilkie Collins, George Eliot, George Meredith, and Henry James read contributions in what we now call cognitive science that asked, "what is the mind?" These Victorian fiction writers took a crucial step, asking how we experience our minds, how that experience relates to our behavior and questions of responsibility, how we can gain control over our mental reflexes, and finally how fiction plays a special role in understanding and training our minds.

Victorian fiction writers focus not only on the question of how the mind works but also on how it seems to work and how we ought to make it work. Ryan shows how the novelistic emphasis on dynamic processes and functions—on the activity of the mind, rather than its structure or essence—can also be seen in some of the most exciting and comprehensive scientific revisions of the understanding of "thinking" in the Victorian period. This book studies the way in which the mind in the nineteenth-century view is embedded not just in the body but also in behavior, in social structures, and finally in fiction.

Johns Hopkins University Press

Editorial Reviews

Cercles - Wendy O'Brien

A fascinating exploration of the Victorian novel's preoccupation with the mid-nineteenth-century British mind sciences.

American Science

Excellent.

Journal of Victorian Culture - Katie Faulkner

Science and literature come together smoothly in Ryan's discussions. Her precise and specific arguments are carefully anchored to existing scholarship and ideas are introduced clearly and logically. This book thus has much to offer scholars of the Victorian novel, to students and to researchers from related fields.

Victoriographies - Ashley Jagodzinski

Ryan’s analyses are insightful and persuasive, and this text will undoubtedly prove valuable to literary scholars and cognitive scientists alike.

Review 19 - J. Stephen Addcox

Given its argument about the prevalence of reflexive thinking in the Victorian novel, this book complicates our understanding of how Victorian authors conceived of and developed their characters.

Nineteenth-Century Literature - Adela Pinch

Ryan makes several crucial interventions into our understanding of Victorian mind theory. She gives what is probably the best assessment of the Victorian proponents of the "new psychology" or "physiological psychology"... to date.

Romanticism and Victorianism on the Net - Shannon Sears

Ryan's book supplies a framework for thinking about thinking during a period whose science and literature are generally acknowledged as having developed important psychological theories, but which has been chronically neglected by consciousness studies... Ryan's method... offers an insightful view of both Victorian literature and Victorian science.

Choice

Adds welcome understanding of Victorian novels. Ryan deftly leads her reader through an array of ideas about the mind, ideas that include everything from physiological study to philosophical debates and materialist ideas. Ryan's writing is always clear, so even less experienced readers can benefit from her wisdom.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781421405919
Publisher:
Johns Hopkins University Press
Publication date:
06/30/2012
Pages:
256
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range:
Up to 18 Years

What People are saying about this

Nicholas Dames

An inventive and productive reading of Victorian mental science, and a groundbreaking account of the forms of ‘thinking’ in Victorian realist fiction, this book will make a significant impact on the field.

Nancy Armstrong

Thinking without Thinking in the Victorian Novel makes a clear and powerful case that Victorian physiological psychologists offered an influential alternative to Darwin and eventually Freud by supplementing man's rational faculty with a range of cognitive functions that operated in a single dynamic process. By so challenging the very oppositions that still inflect our understanding of human nature (including conscious vs. unconscious thought, mind vs. body, self vs. society, and organism vs. environment), Vanessa Ryan prepares the way for what is arguably her most important contribution. With the collapse of this house of cards went the gap separating the world of the novel from that of the reader, so that the Victorian novel could enter into a reciprocal relationship with the reader that prepared the way for William James and the best of contemporary cognitive theory.

Meet the Author

Vanessa L. Ryan is an assistant professor of English at Brown University.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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