Volume 48, Number 1, Spring 2016
Just as the title character of George Eliot’s first full-length novel, Adam Bede (1858) is concerned with building structures out of the proper materials and measurements, the novel itself seeks to build a narrative structure that works on the sensibilities and sympathies of a reader. This article examines Adam Bede through the lens of its architecture; I argue that the novel’s descriptions of houses, farms, churches, and workshops emphasize the temporality of physical structures, thus offering a useful template for understanding the novel’s narrative structures. Through its formal arrangements, the novel juxtaposes a sense of lived time, especially the rhythms of the ordinary, against competing chronotopes of destabilizing, extra-ordinary experiences. The temporality of Adam Bede’s architecture demonstrates the emergence of a realist genre not only capable of reflecting what Jameson calls “the density and solidity of what is,” but also the processes through which those structures are constructed and maintained.
There is a paradox at the heart of literature that has not been sufficiently explored in theories of the novel, a paradox that could be expressed like this: if readers feel themselves into the fictive Other’s inner life they may simultaneously participate in the generation of the Other – or the Other’s Other. This paradox suggests that empathy in literature is not without its ethical costs. In asking us to empathize with certain characters, empathy is blocked for others. The ethical potential of literature is often assumed to originate in in its appeal to our empathy; but if empathy in literature is intimately bound up with processes that create the Other, any straightforward connection between literature and ethics is disrupted. This article uses Silas Marner (1861) as a case study to explore what I call the paradox of narrative empathy, while also revealing an unforeseen ethical insight at the heart of George Eliot’s novel which has not previously been attributed to that “charming minor masterpiece.”
This article discusses Elizabeth Stuart Phelps’s 1870 novel Hedged In in the context of the emergence of American literary realism in opposition to the antebellum “romance,” particularly as that form was the vehicle through which high-cultural authorship was both established and established as male. I argue that reading the novel as a rewriting of the most venerable exemplar of the romance tradition, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, suggests that the contours of realism’s emergence made it attractive to a woman writer precisely because the genre seemed to exist beyond antebellum models of gendered authorship, providing a venue in which the portrayal of social—even religious—concerns did not preclude a claim to the talent and ambition of an artist.
Edna Ferber and the Problems of the Middlebrow—Elyse Vigiletti
“Edna Ferber and the Problems of the Middlebrow” considers the career of one of the most popular writers of the twentieth century, Edna Ferber, in terms of a mode of writing sometimes called “middlebrow.” Through a middle-distance reading of several of her best novels, it argues that Ferber used the very strategies of her work which predicated both her mid-twentieth-century success and her current relative obscurity to simultaneously criticize and entertain the American middle class. This essay shows how the protest invariably at the core of Ferber’s novels could be deployed as an asset, rather than a liability, for attracting her tremendous mass appeal.
Much has been written on Roth’s representation of masculinity but this critical discourse has tended to be situated within a heteronormative frame of reference, perhaps because of Roth’s popular reputation as an aggressively heterosexual, libidinous, masculinist, in some versions sexist or even misogynist author. In this essay I argue that Roth’s representation of male sexuality is more complex, ambiguous and ambivalent than has been generally recognized. Tracing a strong thread of what I call homosocial discourse running through Roth’s oeuvre, I suggest that the series of intimate relationships with other men that many of Roth’s protagonists form are conspicuously couched in this discourse and that a recognition of this ought to reconfigure our sense of the sexual politics of Roth’s career, demonstrating in particular that masculinity in his work is too fluid and dynamic to be accommodated by the conventional binaries of heterosexual and homosexual, feminized Jew and hyper-masculine Gentile, the “ordinary sexual man” and the transgressively desiring male subject.
This essay gestures towards a new type of analysis of contemporary transcultural fiction. While existing analyses of such fiction tend to evaluate the ethical or political import thereof (often via the work of Gayatri Spivak or Homi Bhabha), by devising a narratological lens the focus may be shifted away from such ideological concerns. This is not to disavow the importance of such concerns; rather it is to illuminate the formal ingenuities enacted by certain transcultural writers, the majority of which have been heretofore overlooked.
Taking Ireland as a case study, this new lens – this ‘Narratology of Otherness’ – will be devised by examining the work of Irish-American author Colum McCann. This will at once shed new light on the formal nuances of McCann’s oeuvre, particularly his 2006 novel Zoli, whilst also revealing the implications such an approach may have for both Irish and transcultural literary debates more broadly.
Generic Networks—Michael Falk
Relics of Death in Victorian Literature and Culture by Deborah Lutz—Celeste Mcmaster
American Environmental Fiction, 1782-1847 by Matthew Wynn Sivils—Laura Dassow Walls
Fantasy and the Real World in British Children’s Literature by Caroline Webb—Kathryn Strong Hansen
David Brauner is a professor of contemporary literature at the University of Reading (UK) and executive co-editor of Philip Roth Studies. He is the author of three books—Post-War Jewish Fiction: Ambivalence, Self-Explanation, and Transatlantic Connections (Palgrave/Macmillan, 2001), Philip Roth (Manchester University Press, 2007), and Contemporary American Fiction (Edinburgh University Press, 2010)—and the co-editor of The Edinburgh Companion to Modern Jewish Fiction (2015) with Axel Stähler. His essays have appeared in a wide range of journals, including the Journal of American Studies, the Yearbook of English Studies, Modern Language Review, Canadian Literature, and Studies in American Jewish Literature.
Sophia Forster is assistant professor of English at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, where she teaches American literature of all historical periods. Her research on nineteenth-century American literature has appeared in Modern Fiction Studies and ESQ.
Ruth Gilligan is a bestselling novelist and lecturer in creative writing at the University of Birmingham. She holds degrees from Cambridge, Yale, UEA and Exeter, and her research focuses on contemporary Irish and transcultural fiction. Her fourth novel, Nine Folds Make a Paper Swan, will be published in July 2016. She also contributes regular literary reviews to the Guardian, Irish Independent, Times Literary Supplement, and L.A. Review of Books.
Jody Griffith recently received a PhD in English from Temple University in Philadelphia and is currently an adjunct instructor at Bryn Mawr College. Her work on the Victorian novel focuses on the intersection of architectural, social, and narrative structures in the novels of Charles Dickens, George Eliot, and Thomas Hardy, and the architectural writings of John Ruskin.
Anna Lindhé is a postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Culture and Media Studies at Umeå University, Sweden. She has a PhD in English Literature from Lund University, Sweden. Her dissertation Appropriations of Shakespeare’s King Lear in Three Modern North American Novels came out as a book in 2012. She has also published on Margaret Atwood and on the didactics of literature.
Elyse Vigiletti recently defended her dissertation, “Reading the Middle: US Women Novelists and Print Culture, 1930-1960” at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her work is also published in Frontiers: A Journal of Women's Studies.