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Troubled Legacies

Troubled Legacies: Narrative and Inheritance

Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 336
  • Book Info
    Troubled Legacies
    Book Description:

    Troubled Legaciesthoroughly examines the connection between narrative and claims to legal entitlement, a topic that has not, to date, been comprehensively broached in literary studies.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8507-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Contributors
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. Introduction: Inheritance and Disinheritance in the Novel
    (pp. 3-25)

    Inheritances change destinies and instigate stories. This collection of essays by ten literary scholars focuses on the representation of inheritance in British and Irish fiction. Grouped chronologically and thematically, these essays examine novels from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries as documents in which inheritance variously signifies national belonging, literary affiliation, class identity, heredity, and kinship. Inheritance implies transmission of property and thus creates the expectation of narrative sequence when possessions move from hand to hand. Stories about inheritance therefore concern the meaning of ownership and genealogy, both of which can be disturbed by the disinherited or those who refuse their...

  5. 1 Owenson’s ‘Sacred Union’: Domesticating Ireland, Disavowing Catholicism in The Wild Irish Girl
    (pp. 26-52)

    From its opening, the trajectory of Sydney Owenson’s 1806The Wild Irish Girlis from dispossession to possession, from cultural disinheritance to the constitution of a new national lineage, figured through romance. As Terry Eagleton has observed, ‘It is on the traumatic moment of disinheritance that [Owenson’s] historical imagination is fixated; and the strategy of each of her Irish novels is symbolically to repair this rupture through the displacing device of marriage’ (179). What I will argue here, however, is that to follow the insistent representation of disinheritance in the novel is to lay bare its ultimately disingenuous claims of...

  6. 2 The Nation’s Wife: England’s Vicarious Enjoyment in Anthony Trollope’s Palliser Novels
    (pp. 53-86)

    While Slavoj Zizek rests his argument for the possibility of interpassivity – the arrangement in which someone else undertakes the task of enjoying for you – on the naturalness of a parental desire to witness an offspring’s enjoyment, one is hard-pressed to find an example of such a desire in the parents who populate Victorian novels. When they manage to live long enough, most fictional Victorian parents work towards making their children’s lives quite miserable. Thus, Rochester’s father arranges his son’s marriage to a woman of questionable morals and sanity inJane Eyre(1847), Mr Gradgrind strong-arms his daughter Louisa into a...

  7. 3 Ghostly Dispossessions: The Gothic Properties of Uncle Silas
    (pp. 87-108)

    Towards the end of Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s 1864 novel,Uncle Silas, thieves enter the bedroom of Maud Ruthyn, the beautiful, young protagonist. They brutally kill her governess, Madame de la Rougierre, asleep in Maud’s bed, then seize the heroine’s jewels. Cowering in the darkness, Maud witnesses the act that would have turned her from an heiress, entitled to vast estates and wealth, into a corpse, dispossessed at once of her property and her life. This scene stages a central preoccupation of the novel: the intricate, and vexed, symbolic relations between being, ownership, and bodies. The fact that the villains...

  8. 4 The Englishness of a Gentleman: Illegitimacy and Race in Daniel Deronda
    (pp. 109-136)

    Inheritance is the concept through which the Jewish plot ofDaniel Deronda(1876) stands as an ideal corrective to atomized and materialistic English society, as the story of Daniel’s discovery of his heritage recasts the concept as affiliation.¹ The cluster of meanings that accrete to inheritance in this context – memory, nation, race, culture, commitment, community, ‘fixed local habitation’ (308) – signifies Eliot’s strongest insistence on cultural continuity and on the location of agency in tradition. AlthoughDaniel Derondais frequently seen to be ‘canceling its narrative and moral ties with the English past’ (Wohlfarth 208),² within this matrix of cultural inheritance...

  9. 5 A Battle of Wills: Solving The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
    (pp. 137-162)

    From the inception of the gothic in 1764 with Horace Walpole’sThe Castle of Otranto, its driving theme has been inheritance in both its material and its moral dimensions. The succinctly and specifically identified principal message of that novella, articulated by Walpole himself, that ‘the sins of the fathers will be visited upon the sons to the third and fourth generations’ (5), directly connects the notion of sin with the usurpation of ‘legitimate’ power and property. Thus does the gothic, in its engagement with the theme of ‘contested inheritance,’ take up the vexed question of the relationship between ethics and...

  10. 6 E.M. Forster’s The Longest Journey and the Legacy of Sentiment
    (pp. 163-190)

    E.M. Forster’s novels, especiallyThe Longest Journey(1907), are at their most modern after the inevitable narrative intrusion of sudden death. Often considered a ‘Victorian’ among early twentieth-century writers, Forster’s fictional works adhere largely to the nineteenth-century models of marriage and manners by his admitted forebears, Jane Austen and George Meredith (Furbank and Haskell 34–5). Even when his novels concern the tragic, they are narrated from a smooth omniscient perspective that renders them formally indebted to Forster’s magisterial Victorian antecedents. Only in the surprisingly frequent moments of sudden death are formal expectations disrupted in any fashion commensurate with Forster’s...

  11. 7 Heredity and Disinheritance in Joyce’s Portrait
    (pp. 191-218)

    James Joyce’sA Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man(1916) counters the hackneyed inheritance plot of the traditional English novel by offering in its stead an iconoclastic disinheritance plot. In accord with modernist sensibilities, Joyce’s protagonist resists and divests himself of inherited aesthetic forms, social practices, and familial traits. Beneath the surface of Joyce’s novel of youthful rebelliousness lies a rich discursive subtext of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century ideas about heredity, a subtext that is capable of reaccentuating well-known textual events and opening up lesser-analysed details of the novel. This naturalist subtext becomes clearer whenPortraitis...

  12. 8 Elizabeth Bowen and the Maternal Sublime
    (pp. 219-238)

    We might indeed, as Elizabeth Bowen admonishes us, have everything to dread from the dispossessed, but we also have much to hope of them. No one clung to this hope more anxiously or wrote about this dread more disturbingly than Bowen herself. In the 1930s, a decade Bowen once sadly inventoried as ‘a catalogue of calamities’ (HP73), she wrote two novels,The House in ParisandThe Death of the Heart, that testified to the depth of her knowledge of the dispossessed.¹ It was a knowledge partly born of personal experience of her country and class, partly the shared...

  13. 9 Good Graces: Inheritance and Social Climbing in Brideshead Revisited
    (pp. 239-264)

    As Lord Marchmain lies dying inBrideshead Revisited, he wonders aloud what to do with his estate: ‘Who shall I leave it to? The entail ended with me, you know. Sebastian, alas, is out of the question. Who wants it?Quis? Would you like it, Cara? No, of course you would not. Cordelia? I think I shall leave it to Julia and Charles’ (BR306).¹ In the absence of a clear heir, Lord Marchmain manipulates those assembled around him, including his children and his mistress. By speculating about his heirs and calling lawyers to change his will at the last...

  14. 10 Maternal Property and Female Voice in Banville’s Fiction
    (pp. 265-290)

    John Banville’s protagonists are always cerebral men. His ‘underlying dramatic pattern,’ as Joseph McMinn puts it, ‘questions the relation between masculinity and intellectualisation’ (ix). Derek Hand attributes this pattern to an illiteracy within Banville’s work. Hand takes him ‘to task for his representation of women ... they are, and remain, a foreign country and he does not speak the language’ (113). InShroud, protagonist Axel Vander alludes to Hand when he owns up, ‘In the land of women I am always a traveller lately arrived’ (72). Notwithstanding this proviso, Axel Vander, like Banville himself, has arrived in the land of...

  15. Index
    (pp. 291-297)