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Heroic Commitment in Richardson, Eliot, and James

Heroic Commitment in Richardson, Eliot, and James

PATRICIA McKEE
Copyright Date: 1986
Pages: 365
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7zvvkq
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  • Book Info
    Heroic Commitment in Richardson, Eliot, and James
    Book Description:

    Patricia McKee demonstrates that Richardson, Eliot, and James see disorderliness and indeterminacy in the human self, human relations, and literature as primary sources of meaningfulness. The relationships these novels portray as most satisfying are unsettled and unsettling, interfering with rather than contributing to social stability.

    Originally published in 1986.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5415-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. CHAPTER ONE AN INTRODUCTION OF CRITICAL ISSUES
    (pp. 3-50)

    In the chapters that follow, I offer readings of novels by Samuel Richardson, George Eliot, and Henry James in which human identity and representation exceed the bounds of conventional forms of identity and narrative. The excesses of these novels—both excesses of human behavior and excesses of narrative form—mean, on the one hand, that in content and form they function in terms at odds with prevalent critical and theoretical assumptions about both human relations and literary representation. I am interested, however, not only in identifying how emphatically these works exceed conventions of social and literary meaning but in elaborating...

  5. CHAPTER TWO CORRESPONDING FREEDOMS: LANGUAGE AND THE SELF IN PAMELA
    (pp. 51-96)

    Ian Watt, considering the eighteenth-century novel in a historical context, emphasizes “the transition from the objective, social and public orientation of the classical world to the subjective, individualist and private orientation of the life and literature of the last two hundred years.”¹ Finding in Defoe’s “total subordination of the plot to the pattern of the autobiographical memoir . . . as defiant an assertion of the primacy of individual experience in the novel as Descartes’cogito ergo sumwas in philosophy,” Watt identifies “the rise of the novel” with the increasing social, political, and philosophical sovereignty of the individual in...

  6. CHAPTER THREE RICHARDSON’S CLARISSA: AUTHORITY IN EXCESS
    (pp. 97-149)

    LikePamela, Richardson’sClarissaexceeds the bounds of economical narrative. Its very length is a sign of this excess, as is the multiplicity of narrators whose letters make up the text. Authorizing excess, Richardson and his heroines never reduce meaning to terms according to which differences can be either clearly opposed or clearly equated. Such a vision of meaning is represented and realized inPamela, in the interdependence of characters whose differences neither distinguish them from each other nor enable them to rule each other out of significance. InPamelawe find two characters doing essentially the same thing to...

  7. CHAPTER FOUR POWER AS PARTIALITY IN MIDDLEMARCH
    (pp. 150-207)

    Dorothea Brooke, the heroine ofMiddlemarch,has as uneasy an effect on the world around her as do Richardson’s Pamela and Clarissa. She, too, is hard to take and difficult to place, and, as in Clarissa’s case, the difficulty is initially posed as a problem of “marriageability.”

    And how should Dorothea not marry?—a girl so handsome and with such prospects? Nothing could hinder it but her love of extremes, and her insistence on regulating life according to notions which might cause a wary man to hesitate before he made her an offer, or even might lead her at last...

  8. CHAPTER FIVE GEORGE ELIOT’S REDEMPTION OF MEANING: DANIEL DERONDA
    (pp. 208-269)

    To consider the redemptive vision ofDaniel Derondais to consider again a concept of meaning that challenges, even reverses, our assumptions about what is meaningful. If we consider the central characters, for example, we have a hero who, like Will Ladislaw, is subject to readers’ accusations that he is not there at all. “We see through him,” Barbara Hardy says, because of an “absence of personality” as well as an absence of ironic critical perspective on the part of the narrator.¹ Yet Deronda, like Ladislaw, seems to satisfy the terms of his own description of human character, perceived as...

  9. CHAPTER SIX THE GIFT OF ACCEPTANCE: THE GOLDEN BOWL
    (pp. 270-346)

    The Golden Bowlis a novel about marriage and, therefore, a novel about the union of differences. For Henry James, different people can be “fused” together, and so can the different elements of a narrative. It is the fusion of differences that makes a work of art “true” for him, as it makes the work absolute in its wholeness, so that it cannot be taken apart or figured out. In the Preface toThe Awkward Age,James writes of the “marriage” of substance and form in a successful work of art:

    They are separate before the fact, but the sacrament...

  10. AFTERWORD
    (pp. 347-350)

    When Pamela, early in Richardson’s novel, writes to her parents, “yourpovertyis mypride, as your integrity shall be my imitation” (87), we can recognize that we are in the hands of a narrator who subscribes to something like James’s “sublime economy.” Like Clarissa, and like the heroic characters and narrators ofMiddlemarch,Daniel Deronda, andThe Golden Bowl, Pamela uses language that is both indeterminate and practical and represents with such language human relations that are both unaccountable and profitable.

    It is just the practical effects of such an economy, or just the fact that indeterminate, “artful” representation...

  11. INDEX
    (pp. 351-353)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 354-354)