Middlemarch: ‘Unabridged’

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[cropped] Eliot’s Manuscript of Middlemarch © Jonathan Garnault Ouvry / British Library

Guest Post from Unit Member Kathy Rees: on reading George Eliot’s Middlemarch again, abridgement, and the significance of paratext mottoes. 

 

I was very excited when the Research Unit Reading Group embarked on George Eliot’s Middlemarch (1871), but also slightly stressed, because I knew that I didn’t have time to re-read it.  The obvious solution was audible.com, and I imagined myself happily absorbed in the dramas and doings at Tipton Grange and Freshitt Hall while I trailed around Tesco or stirred the soup.

At the point of purchase I was puzzled to note that the length of the ‘Audible Studios’ edition, narrated by Maureen O’Brien (£21), was 32 hours and 28 minutes, while the ‘Naxos’ edition, narrated by Juliet Stevenson (£37), was 35 hours and 40 minutes.  Given that both versions were emphatically marked UNABRIDGED, it seemed outrageous to pay £16 for an additional 3 hours and 12 minutes of an amorphous ‘something’ – maybe pregnant pauses, or musical intervals – so, like dear Mr Brooke, I had good intentions but was ‘spending as little money as possible in carrying them out”.[i] The outcome of my penny-pinching provoked the subject of this blog.

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Hardy and Me: A Personal Account

In honour of tomorrow’s Far From the Madding Crowd event for the Being Human Festival 2016, unit member Chris Lyon has written a post for us about his experiences with reading Thomas Hardy.

We’re looking forward to our free screening and discussion of Far From the Madding Crowd tomorrow, and hope to see you there!

Hardy and Me. A Personal Account.

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The Tithe Barn, Abbotsbury near Wymouth, by Walter Tyndale

 

Like most people passing through the English state education system, my first encounter with Thomas Hardy was an obligatory study of a Hardy novel as part of the GCE (now GCSE) National Curriculum for English Literature. No explanation was given as to why Hardy was and still is deemed essential reading. He just appeared in the classroom one day. In my case that day happened to be in 1974, exactly 100 years after its first publication. The novel in question was Far from the Madding Crowd.

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Livestream: Rohan McWilliam on Victorian Nightlife

In case you missed Rohan McWilliam’s talk on ‘Victorian Nightlife and the West End of London’ today, we recorded a livestream of the event, and you can watch it at the link below. (Unfortunately our Internet connection dropped out halfway through so the recording is in two parts and missing a segment while we got it working again.) Many thanks to Rohan for such an interesting paper!

Watch/Listen again here!

 

Work in Progress: On Tearing Up Dickens’s David Copperfield

Kathy Rees completed her PhD on Edmund Gosse in 2015.  She is continuing with her research, pursuing her interest in allusion and intertextuality, currently in relation to the Heinemann International Library (1890-97).  Two of the books mentioned in this blog by Bjørnsterne Bjørnson were translated into English for this library. 

On Tearing up Dickens’s David Copperfield

This blog post offers some thoughts on the relationship between the work of Charles Dickens and that of Bjørnsterne Bjørnson (1832-1910), the Norwegian writer who gave his country the nucleus of its modern literature in terms of stories, dramas, novels, poems and songs.  Heralded as “Norway’s beating heart” and “Norway’s uncrowned king”, Bjørnson profoundly influenced Norway’s political direction and initiated educational change.  Bjørnson’s work attracted notice within Scandinavia from the late 1850s, gaining a more international reputation from 1870 onwards. Like Dickens, Bjørnson had a strong social conscience, and his work often challenged private and public morals.

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Work in Progress – Counter-Revolutionary Poetry

Steven White is an Associate Lecturer in English Literature at Anglia Ruskin. He submitted his thesis on “Representations of Society in Conservative Poetry, 1790-1798” in August 2016. His research interests lie broadly in the fields of political writing of the long nineteenth century, the relationship between literature and the formation of ideologies, and music journalism in the Victorian period. Twitter | Email

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New morality; -or- the promis’d installment of the high-priest of the theophilanthropes, with the homage of Leviathan and his suite.
James Gillray, 1798
Hand-coloured etching
© British Museum

Since reading Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France for the first time in 2008 I have been fascinated by the conservative opposition to the ideals of the French Revolution. Burke was for a long time reductively held up as, to borrow Kevin Gilmartin’s phrase, “a simple index of conservatism” – a political force which “we now correctly understand to have been more complex and internally differentiated” than previously understood (8). Still, there is much work which remains to be done in the field. My research centres on a genre of writing which has previously been left more or less untouched by scholars, and, in fact, cannot be said to have been fully recognised as a genre of writing in its own right at all – that of conservative or counter-revolutionary poetry.

It is strange that so little should have been said about conservative poetry. My research has found that no fewer than six hundred poems were published between 1790 and 1798 which in some identifiable sense worked to preserve the established order in Britain and/or to resist the changes threatened by the French Revolution. This number is based only on the poems that were published through mass media channels – that is newspapers, magazines, periodicals, broadsides, songsters and the like. It does not include those published as or exclusively as volumes of poetry (this would take the number up still further). By any measure, it is a significant body of writing in terms of size alone. But its real significance lies in the potential of such poetry as an ideological weapon, as poetry was possessed of a potential for crossing divisions of class, education and sex in a way that perhaps no other medium was.

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Work in Progress – The Corsair: A Tale of Female Anarchy

Kirsty J. Harris is a postgraduate researcher at Anglia Ruskin University, interested in the intersections of poetry and maritime history, women’s narratives of the sea, the history of piracy, and queer feminist readings of early nineteenth-century texts. Her thesis is titled ‘In Peril on the Sea: Shipwreck and Loss in Poetry 1805-1822’. Blog | Twitter | Email

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Liberty Leading the People.

Le 28 Juillet: La Liberté Guidant Le Peuple
Eugène Delacroix, 1830
Oil on canvas
© Louvre Museum, Paris

Delacroix has also turned a partially naked woman into a partially nude woman, exerting over the female body an aesthetic control that parallels the taming of the warrior woman in popular balladry. Liberty thus contains her contradictions: She is both a “dirty” revolutionary born of action and an other-wordly, idealised female subject born of a classical artistic inheritance and perhaps a new 19th-century definition of femininity.
Delacroix was reading Byron’s poem ‘The Corsair’ – about piracy – as he was painting Liberty between October and December 1830.

(Marcus Rediker)

There are few things more subversive in maritime history than piracy, however romantically pirates from the Age of Sail have come to be seen in the twenty-first century. Byron’s poem The Corsair is often cited as a purveyor and, sometimes, instigator of this romanticised view of a brutal reality. My research focuses on layers of subversion found within poetry of the sea in the early nineteenth century, and what is interesting about The Corsair in particular is that the violence and truly piratical action in the text does not come from Conrad, the eponymous corsair himself. Instead, the character responsible for murder, jailbreak, vengeance and anarchy is the Turkish harem queen, Gulnare.

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