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Matthew, H. Harrison, and Lawrence Goldman, eds.

Literary Periods

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Subscription service available through many university and public libraries. You can search by person, theme, and association. Contains biographical essays on individual social-problem authors, detailing works, and lists sources and archives. Shattock, Joanne, ed. The Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature. Also the lesser-known Francis Paget and Elizabeth Stone. Includes details of primary and selected secondary material and of archives.


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Sutherland, John. The Longman Companion to Victorian Fiction. Harlow, UK: Pearson Longman, Victorian Web. Entries also link to other relevant articles e. Also includes lists of further reading. Ayres is a scholarly edition of four novels by Frances Trollope, which are not otherwise easily available.

Disraeli is the only academic edition of this work currently in print. The other Broadview editions, Dickens and Gaskell , also contain an exceptional amount of useful contemporaneous material. Ayres, Brenda, ed. There is an excellent general introduction and also specific introductions for each novel, as well as explanatory notes. The first volume includes bibliographies of further reading on each novel. Dickens, Charles. Hard Times.

Edited by Graham Law. Peterborough, ON: Broadview, Dickens Journals Online. Free, online, and searchable. Disraeli, Benjamin. Sybil, or the Two Nations. Edited by Sheila Smith. Not otherwise in print in an academic edition, this is an authoritative text with introduction and notes. Gaskell, Elizabeth.

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Mary Barton. Edited by Jennifer Foster. Martineau, Harriet. Illustrations of Political Economy: Selected Tales. Edited by Deborah Anna Logan. It is not possible to include a comprehensive list of useful contextual material but the following have been selected for their influence and their accessibility. It is available online as well as in research libraries. Simmons contains 19th-century working-class autobiographies, some of which were drawn upon by the social-problem novelists.

It also contains a wealth of contemporaneous documents about the factory system. Freedgood also includes a range of relevant historical documents. Engels is an eyewitness account of working-class life in Manchester in the s and, although it did not influence the social-problem novelists, it has been a significant influence on the development of Marxism and on historical accounts of the period.

Carlyle, Thomas. London: James Fraser, Engels, Friedrich. The Condition of the Working Class in England. Edited by David McLellan. It is useful for observations of working-class living conditions in Manchester in the s rather than for any influence upon the social-problem novelists themselves.

Victorian Literature

Freedgood, Elaine, ed. Factory Production in Nineteenth-Century Britain. A wide-ranging selection of contemporaneous documents about factories and the factory system in 19th-century Britain. The selection includes canonical and more obscure writings and a useful editorial introduction and chronology.

Simmons, James R. Very useful resource that contains four working-class autobiographies giving accounts of 19th-century factory working conditions. It also contains a diverse selection of contemporary documents, including responses to the autobiographies, testimony to parliamentary committees, views on factory life, and on factory legislation and literary excerpts. Cazamian, Louis. Translated by Martin Fido. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, Tillotson, Kathleen.

Novels of the s. Oxford: Clarendon, Following the Early Studies , the next significant tranche of work on the social-problem novel was by Marxist critics. Williams and Kettle were both influential Marxist works first published in Lucas was the next Marxist work to consider the genre. Kettle, Arnold. Edited by Boris Ford, — London: Penguin, First published in , this is a revised edition. Critically superseded, this brief Marxist study nonetheless remains influential and much cited.

Also excludes Martineau because she wrote for working, not middle, classes. Lesjak, Carolyn. Lucas, John. Significant essay arguing that Gaskell retreats from a radical critique of bourgeois ideology into melodrama and thereby affirms the status quo but that she is still more sympathetic to working-class distress than Dickens, Kingsley, and Disraeli. Williams, Raymond. Culture and Society, — Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, An influential work of cultural history by a leading Marxist critic. A substantial strand of historicist criticism exists on the social-problem novel much of which also has some overlap with Marxist Criticism studies.

However, Smith responds most directly to the Early Studies rather than the more recent Marxist works. Brantlinger is strong on the political and social context of the fiction. Gallagher is a groundbreaking, sophisticated, and difficult work that is still much cited, and Childers makes an interesting argument that responds to it.

Victorian Literature

Flint provides a selection of relevant contemporaneous materials drawn upon by social-problem novelists, which is invaluable for understanding the context. Gagnier draws upon a formidable range of resources and situates the middle-class social-problem novel within a wealth of other including working-class memoirs.

Brantlinger, Patrick. Informative exploration of literature between the Reform Bills of and , it views literature as an instrument of social amelioration and is particularly strong on the political and social context. Argues that the reforming spirit was dwindling by the s under the influence of industrial expansion and social Darwinism. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, Flint, Kate. London: Croom Helm, Invaluable in understanding the materials on which social-problem novelists drew and the context in which they wrote; the editorial comments are also critically astute.

Gagnier, Regenia. Gallagher, Catherine. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, The contradictions inherent in these controversies become exhibited in stylistic disjunctions. Guy, Josephine M. Basingstoke, UK: Macmillan, Poovey, Mary. Smith, Sheila. Interesting for the extent and range of evidence called upon, including periodicals, visual culture, government reports, and ballads.

Vanden Bossche, Chris R. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, The following are just some examples of this critical trend. Cazamian first published in French in was the first study of the social-problem novel and it attempts to evaluate the success of the different novels by reference to how accurately they represented events. This approach was taken up by the next study, Tillotson , which argued that the social-problem novels brought a new realism and a wider scope to the novel genre. Leavis is an influential study that rejects realism as the only aesthetic imperative and argues instead that Hard Times should be judged as a moral fable.

A significant early work that set the agenda for later studies in its concern with the realism of social-problem novels. Ingham, Patricia. Identifies the books Dickens relied upon for information about the Lancashire dialect he used in Hard Times.

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Leavis, F. Leavis, — Rejects the criterion of realism for judging Hard Times , claiming that what seem to be unrealistic elements in the novel should be read symbolically. Argues that the first half of Mary Barton is realistic whereas the second degenerates into melodrama because Gaskell retreats from the interrogation of bourgeois ideology that her initial realism entailed. Melchers, Gunnel. Examines how successful Mrs. Gaskell was in achieving her expressed aim of accurately representing a working-class Manchester dialect in Mary Barton. Judges both her pronunciation and her morphology to be accurate.

Argues that the novel became the dominant literary genre because of this greater range and realism. Betensky and Lenard are both part of a recent critical turn toward sentiment and sentimentality. Betensky is in other ways a new angle on a more longstanding argument see under Marxist Criticism that critiques social-problem novels for their overriding concern for middle-class rather than working-class needs. Lenard claims that the roots of social-problem fiction lie in the 18th-century notion of sentimentalism. Betensky, Carolyn. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, Lenard, Mary.

Victorian Publishing History

New York: Peter Lang, Turns to 18th-century conceptions of sentimentalism as a way of understanding social-problem fiction. Argues that lesser-known female novelists such as Trollope, Tonna, and Elizabeth Stone drew upon sentimentalist discourses for their authority and that their writings, in turn, influenced the more canonical Dickens and Gaskell. Dzelzainis focuses on female bodies in its consideration of how seamstress stories by Tonna and Francis Paget combine a gendered medical discourse with fundamentalist Christian narratives to critique political economy.

In contrast, Ulrich focuses on the use of the male body by Cobbett, Carlyle, and Disraeli. Edited by Victoria Morgan and Clare Williams, 39— Sanders, Mike. Ulrich, John M. In common with other genres, there has been a substantial critical focus since the s on the issue of gender in studies of the social-problem novel. One strand of this criticism has noted that a number of social-problem novelists were women. Another has focused on the representation of women in such novels and a third on the construction of masculinity.

Kestner argues for a tradition of social-problem writing by women. Krueger shares this interest in Tonna and is also worthy of attention for its consideration of the religious dimension to the work of three female authors. Zlotnick continues the focus on female authors and compares their depictions of the factory to that of their male contemporaries. David is an important work about how Harriet Martineau and George Eliot navigated the problems inherent in identifying as female intellectuals in the 19th century.

Schor considers how Elizabeth Gaskell negotiated the publishing world in her construction of herself as a female author. Elliott also considers how middle-class social-problem authors constructed their class and gender identity. David, Deirdre. Elliott, Dorice Williams. Argues that female social-problem novelists constructed their own class and gender identity in contrast to servants; the authors represented the essential similarity between domestic and factory workers and thereby reimagined the relationship between factory worker and industrialist as an idealized paternalistic relationship between domestic servant and mistress.

Considers Trollope, Tonna, and Gaskell. Kestner, Joseph A. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, Identifies a tradition of female social-problem writing. Krueger, Christine L.

click Argues that female social-reform authors, including Tonna, Gaskell, and Eliot, were drawing upon an evangelical tradition of women preachers who provided a model both for the empowerment of women orators and writers and for a female use of religious discourse. Lewis, Michael D.


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Schor, Hilary. Impressive analysis of individual works. Terry-Chandler, Fiona. Zlotnick, Susan. Women, Writing, and the Industrial Revolution. Argues that Victorian women writers accept the materiality of the factory while striving to repair it, unlike male writers, who repudiate it. Bodenheimer is an influential study building on the work of Catherine Gallagher see Gallagher , cited under Historicist Criticism which intertwines considerations of gender with those of class.

It considers narrative ideology in a range of social-problem novels. Bodenheimer, Rosemarie. Argues that stories by women in which struggles with concepts of class and gender are intertwined made a particular contribution to social-problem fiction. Considers how fantasies of reform and class reconciliation are located in romantic plots featuring middle-class heroines, as well as in the pastoral and in notions of history. Harsh, Constance D. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, But in spite, it contained the large purpose of offering a picture and criticism of contemporary life.

The second and real cause of the lack of organization in these novels was that they were serialized in the monthly and weekly magazines. Quite often, a novel took 25 serials to complete in the magazine. Now in between the beginning and end of a novel, hundreds of readers would give their suggestions. Thus the Victorian reader had in a way a share in the composition of the novel.

If the novels of the early Victorians were written in the 40s and 50s, those of the later Victorians were published in the 60s and 70s. George Eliot , George Meredith, and Thomas Hardy all these major novelists of the period started publishing around the end of the 50s or later. They had more academic flavors in their writings, more poetic imagination. They did not have the breadth and variety with the exception of Middlemarch of the early novelists but they certainly had greater depth of characterization and greater intensity of presentation. The novelists of the later Victorian era , were not entertainers and reformers, as were their elders.

Instead, they were more serious composers with greater involvement in the deeper passions of life particularly love. Moreover, their main concern was with the rural England, which was being destroyed by industry and commerce rather than the city working class and its masters, the mill-owners etc. They depicted the tragedy of transition from the agrarian way of life to the industrial order. These new ideas made the novelists look at human society from a new perspective, not as a static Biblical model existing between the dynamic tension between good and evil, but as an evolutionary process of human nature, society and civilization, growing on the Darwinian principles.