Catalogue


Feeling for the poor : bourgeois compassion, social action, and the Victorian novel /
Carolyn Betensky.
imprint
Charlottesville [Va.] : University of Virginia Press, 2010.
description
ix, 225 p. ; 24 cm.
ISBN
0813930618 (cloth : alk. paper), 9780813930619 (cloth : alk. paper)
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
Charlottesville [Va.] : University of Virginia Press, 2010.
isbn
0813930618 (cloth : alk. paper)
9780813930619 (cloth : alk. paper)
contents note
Knowing who cares and caring who knows in Michael Armstrong and Oliver Twist -- Symmetry, sympathy, and the "two-nations" trope -- "Nought but tears and brave words": feeling and complaining in Gaskell's industrial fiction -- Felix Holt and the radicalization of feeling -- "It's a passion, it's my life, it's all I care for!": befriending the poor in James's The Princess Casamassima.
catalogue key
7335857
 
Includes bibliographical references (p. [209]-217) and index.
A Look Inside
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 2011-05-01:
Looking at Frances Trollope's Michael Armstrong, Charles Dickens's Oliver Twist, Benjamin Disraeli's Sybil, Elizabeth Gaskell's Mary Barton and North and South, George Eliot's Felix Holt, and Henry James's Princess Casamassima, Betensky (Univ. of Rhode Island) argues that these social-problem novels aim not to solicit change in behavior of the dominant classes toward the dominated but rather to make middle-class readers feel right about the poor. The novels teach middle-class characters how to be readers of the poor, how to understand their suffering. The author points out that in Mary Barton, Gaskell illustrates how not to behave: John Barton's murderous rage responds to wealthy Harry Carson's clever but mocking caricature of the hungry workers. Betensky also notes that often the hero or heroine is of the dominant class but is a woman or second son and thus dominated within that class; that within these novels unrewarded goodness earns one moral capital; and that often a backlash against poor, dominated characters occurs because they fail to understand the sympathy of the middle-class characters. The study suffers from overabstraction and repetition of key ideas, especially in the early chapters, but overall it advances the conversation about the Victorian novel and is well worth reading. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. M. S. Stephenson University of Texas at Brownsville
Reviews
Review Quotes
Carolyn Betensky brings an original point of view and an engaging writer's voice to bear on the well-developed subject of the Victorian social-problem novel. In her analysis, novels stage competitions for feeling and suffering between representatives of powerful and powerless classes, acting finally as self-comforting fictions for the bourgeois reader and writer. Betensky's skills and talents as a critic are evident. The writing style is quite delightful -- fresh, frank, and clear, with wonderful moments of ironic wit."
"Carolyn Betensky brings an original point of view and an engaging writer's voice to bear on the well-developed subject of the Victorian social-problem novel. In her analysis, novels stage competitions for feeling and suffering between representatives of powerful and powerless classes, acting finally as self-comforting fictions for the bourgeois reader and writer. Betensky's skills and talents as a critic are evident. The writing style is quite delightful -- fresh, frank, and clear, with wonderful moments of ironic wit."" -- Rosemarie Bodenheimer, Boston College, author of Knowing Dickens
This item was reviewed in:
Choice, May 2011
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Main Description
What if the political work of Victorian social-problem novels was precisely to make the reader feel as if reading them -- in and of itself -- mattered? Surveying novels by Charles Dickens, Frances Trollope, Benjamin Disraeli, Elizabeth Gaskell, George Eliot, and Henry James, Carolyn Betensky tracks the promotion of bourgeois feeling as a response to the suffering of the poor and working classes. Victorian social-problem novels, she argues, volunteered the experience of their own reading as a viable response to conflicts that seemed daunting or irreconcilable. Encoded at multiple levels within the novels themselves, reading became something to do about the pain of others.Beyond representations of conscious or unconscious wishes to control, conquer, or discipline the industrial poor, social-problem novels offered their middle-class readers the opportunity to experience themselves in the position of both benefactor and beneficiary. Betensky argues that these narratives were not only about middle-class fear of or sympathy for the working classes. They gave voice, just as importantly, to a middle-class desire for and even envy of the experience of the dominated classes. In their representations of poor and working-class characters, social-problem novels offered middle-class subjects an expanded range of emotional experience that included a claim to sympathy on their own behalf.Victorian Literature and Culture Series
Main Description
What if the political work of Victorian social-problem novels was precisely to make the reader feel as if reading them -- in and of itself -- mattered? Surveying novels by Charles Dickens, Frances Trollope, Benjamin Disraeli, Elizabeth Gaskell, George Eliot, and Henry James, Carolyn Betensky tracks the promotion of bourgeois feeling as a response to the suffering of the poor and working classes. Victorian social-problem novels, she argues, volunteered the experience of their own reading as a viable response to conflicts that seemed daunting or irreconcilable. Encoded at multiple levels within the novels themselves, reading became something to do about the pain of others. Beyond representations of conscious or unconscious wishes to control, conquer, or discipline the industrial poor, social-problem novels offered their middle-class readers the opportunity to experience themselves in the position of both benefactor and beneficiary. Betensky argues that these narratives were not only about middle-class fear of or sympathy for the working classes. They gave voice, just as importantly, to a middle-class desire for and even envy of the experience of the dominated classes. In their representations of poor and working-class characters, social-problem novels offered middle-class subjects an expanded range of emotional experience that included a claim to sympathy on their own behalf. Victorian Literature and Culture Series
Table of Contents
Acknowledgmentsp. vii
Introduction: Feeling for the Poorp. 1
Knowing Who Cares and Caring Who Knows in Michael Armstrong and Oliver Twistp. 23
Symmetry, Sympathy, and the ôTwo-Nationsö Tropep. 59
ôNought but Tears and Brave Wordsö: Feeling and Complaining in Gaskell's Industrial Fictionp. 93
Felix Holt and the Radicalization of Feelingp. 132
ôIt's a Passion-It's My Life-It's All I Care For!ö: Befriending the Poor in The Princess Casamassimap. 163
Afterwordp. 187
Notesp. 193
Works Citedp. 209
Indexp. 219
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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