Victorian Afterlives

The Shaping of Influence in Nineteenth-Century Literature

Robert Douglas-Fairhurst author


Publisher:Oxford University Press

Published:5th Feb '04

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Victorian Afterlives cover

Questions of survival were much discussed during the nineteenth-century, ranging from debates over the likelihood of a personal immortality, to anxieties over the more dispersed and unpredictable aftermath of particular acts and utterances. Some of these questions emerged in the intellectual and stylistic preoccupations of individual writers, such as Dickens, Tennyson, and FitzGerald. Others contributed towards the cultural atmosphere they shared, in which shifty and overlapping ideas of 'influence' (from the seductive touch of the mesmerist to the contagious breath of the poor) became central to attempts to work out how far-reaching were the effects which people had on one another and themselves. Victorian Afterlives sets out to recover this atmosphere, and to explain why its pressures are still being exercised on and in our own ways of thinking. Moving freely between different fields of enquiry (including literary criticism, philosophy, and the history of science), and written in a lively and accessible style, this major new study redraws the map of nineteenth-century culture to show what the Victorians made of one another, and what they might still help us make of ourselves.

Review from hardback edition ... neatly phrased, incisive commentary is a precious feature of this book: its strength lies in such observations, in the author's highly-trained discrimination as a close reader of words. * Dickens Quarterly *
Review from hardback edition It is perhaps the most remarkable achievement of Victorian Afterlives that this book, whose subject seems at first so uncertain, so forced, so peculiar to itself, should emerge as a significant combination of subjects previously known. * MODERNISM/modernity *
Review from previous edition This book is one of the most impressive critical analyses of nineteenth-century literary culture that I have read in a long time. A closely written and argued discussion of theories of literary influence in a nineteenth-century context, it ranges widely and makes always interesting and sometimes brilliant connections . . . This is a major work of Victorian literary criticism, and a book to be read over and over again for its myriad insights and felicities. * Tennyson Research Bulletin *
Close readings unravel the manner in which "dead" voices haunt Tennyson's poetry, and the author is uncommonly sharp-eared for nuance. * Scotland on Sunday *
Ambitious, delightful, frustrating, wide-ranging, often beautifully written . . . Its sheer range sets it apart from the usual academic monograph . . . refreshingly free of jargon. * Angela Leighton, Times Literary Supplement *
One of the enjoyable features of Douglas-Fairhurst's writing is its commitment to close reading. He can make a word or line come alive by a turn of phrase which resonantly prolongs its momentum. * Angela Leighton, Times Literary Supplement *
'Douglas-Fairhurst's excellent ear for the influential voices in the Victorian air is . . extraordinarily impressive in its demonstration of an ambitiously capacious conception of influence . . . the range of reference and allusion in the book is dizzying, . . . and the evocation of these echoing voices provides an extraordinary resonance to his discussions, especially, of Dickens' Great Expectation, Tennyson's "sympathy", and Edward FitzGerald's nostalgic savouring of the afterlives of friends and texts in memory.' * Victorian Poetry *

ISBN: 9780199269310

Dimensions: 215mm x 138mm x 20mm

Weight: 437g

384 pages