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Victorian Interpretation

Overview

Suzy Anger investigates the relationship of Victorian interpretation to the ways in which literary criticism is practiced today. Her primary focus is literary interpretation, but she also considers fields such as legal theory, psychology, history, and the natural sciences in order to establish the pervasiveness of hermeneutic thought in Victorian culture. Anger's book demonstrates that much current thought on interpretation has its antecedents in the Victorians, who were already deeply engaged with the problems ...

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Victorian Interpretation

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Overview

Suzy Anger investigates the relationship of Victorian interpretation to the ways in which literary criticism is practiced today. Her primary focus is literary interpretation, but she also considers fields such as legal theory, psychology, history, and the natural sciences in order to establish the pervasiveness of hermeneutic thought in Victorian culture. Anger's book demonstrates that much current thought on interpretation has its antecedents in the Victorians, who were already deeply engaged with the problems of interpretation that concern literary theorists today.

Anger traces the development and transformation of interpretive theory from a religious to a secular (and particularly literary) context. She argues that even as hermeneutic theory was secularized in literary interpretation it carried in its practice some of the religious implications with which the tradition began. She further maintains that, for the Victorians, theories of interpretation are often connected to ethical principles and suggests that all theories of interpretation may ultimately be grounded in ethical theories.

Beginning with an examination of Victorian biblical exegesis, in the work of figures such as Benjamin Jowett, John Henry Newman, and Matthew Arnold, the book moves to studies of Thomas Carlyle, George Eliot, and Oscar Wilde. Emphasizing the extent to which these important writers are preoccupied with hermeneutics, Anger also shows that consideration of their thought brings to light questions and qualifications of some of the assumptions of contemporary criticism.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Suzy Anger's book on Victorian hermeneutics will significantly reshape our understanding of the critical tradition that has formed the discipline of literary study. Anger's critical and scholarly virtues are multiple, and they work to illuminate both philosophical issues and the development of literary criticism through the nineteenth century into modernism. The book taught me an enormous amount about hermeneutics and, even more important for literary scholars, the way the hermeneutic tradition entered into and helped shape and anticipate modern criticism. Anger is one of those rare literary critics who has truly mastered philosophical issues and who can speak authoritatively across the disciplines. She has helped change the shape of the field."—George Levine, Kenneth Burke Professor of English and Director of the Center for Cultural Analysis, Rutgers University

"Suzy Anger has written an astute, deeply informed history of Victorian theories of interpretation. As she thinks her way into the sophisticated balances struck by Victorian minds, Anger's own narrative exemplifies the double embrace of epistemological doubt and ethical commitment that she traces through the nineteenth century."—Rosemarie Bodenheimer, Boston College

"Victorian Interpretation is a wonderfully bold, erudite, and bracing rethinking of Victorian intellectual method. In charting the emergence of a general hermeneutics in nineteenth-century Britain, Suzy Anger offers pointed revaluations of major Victorian thinkers and Victorian thought generally, and deftly underscores their relevance to the way we interpret now. This is a book that should engage historians and theorists alike."—James Eli Adams, Cornell University

"Suzy Anger moves between biblical and secular, German and British, Victorian and twentieth-century theories of interpretation with great tact, eloquence, and originality. Exploring both the continuities and the swervings within such pairs, she isolates a distinctively British hermeneutic tradition in the links among Carlyle, Newman, George Eliot, and Wilde with a persuasive force that immediately establishes her as a literary/philosophical critic of the highest order."—Gerhard Joseph, Lehman College and the Graduate School, City University of New York

"The intellectual courage of this book lies in its commitment to mapping out a broad sweep of the history of ideas while gesturing to the afterlives of nineteenth-century hermeneutics in twentieth-century literary theory. Above all this book invites its readers to engage in intellectual dialogue beyond the bounds of nineteenth-century British studies."—Victorian Studies

"The book offers a brilliant and radical reevaluation of Victorian thought processes and will require students of Victorian culture and historians of literary theory to reformulate their ideas about what the Victorians knew and thought about interpretation in all areas of their lives."—Victorian Review

"Anger examines Victorian contributions to the development of a secular hermeneutic tradition. . . . The result is a study that usefully combines specificity of analysis and broadness of range and makes a lucid case for the sophistication and significance of Victorian critical thought."—Choice

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801477447
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 12/1/2011
  • Pages: 222
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (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

Acknowledgments

An Overview

1. Victorian Scriptural Hermeneutics: History, Intention, and Evolution

Intertext I: Victorian Legal Interpretation

2. Carlyle: Between Biblical Exegesis and Romantic Hermeneutics

Intertext 2: Victorian Science and Hermeneutics: The Interpretation of Nature

3. George Eliot's Hermeneutics of Sympathy

Intertext 3: Victorian Literary Criticism

4. Subjectivism, Intersubjectivity, and Intention: Oscar Wilde and Literary Hermeneutics

Epilogue

Notes
Index

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