Nineteenth-Century Prose

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Spring 2013, Volume 40

Volume 40, Number 1 Spring 2013

Volume 40, Number 2-Spring 2013

Erika Behrisch Elce, “‘A tribute of respect to the dead’: Narrative Containment and Focal Substitution in Leopold McClintock’s The Voyage of the ‘Fox’” / 1

In 1859, Captain Leopold McClintock was lauded as a hero upon his return to England from a two-year Arctic expedition that was declared by the Athenaeum as “one of the most important voyages ever made in the Arctic Seas” (24 December 1859, 845). McClintock and his crew of 24 had pushed Lady Franklin’s converted luxury schooner Fox into the Eastern pack ice during the winter of 1858-59, prosecuting a final search for the remains of Sir John Franklin’s missing crews and eventually discovering a single piece of paper outlining the lost expedition’s intentions to march en masse to the Arctic mainland. McClintock’s vastly popular published narrative of the expedition was accorded, as a Chambers’s Journal editorialist put it, “great value as a simple and satisfactory narrative” of heroism and sacrifice (CJ: January-June 1860, 39), but the present essay argues that it was actually neither transparent nor straightforward. McClintock’s “simple tale” is in fact the product of a series of complex narrative negotiations that rejuvenate Arctic exploration generally – and Franklin specifically – as a suitable subject for nationalist pride (Murchison xxxvii). Examining both the written and the visual texts of Voyage, this paper analyzes how McClintock uses a dual strategy of narrative containment and focal substitution to rewrite the story of Franklin’s expedition as a monument to British fortitude and duty, and to discourage any imaginative reconstruction of Arctic disaster by offering himself and his crews as visual and narrative stand-ins for members of the lost expedition.

Daniel R. Mangiavellano, “De Quincey, Coleridge, and the Literary Model of Habit” / 27

This essay argues that Thomas De Quincey defines ‘authentic’ opium habituation as the effective management of one’s own personal slavery, and he uses Samuel Taylor Coleridge as a straw man to illustrate the perils of unmanaged, ‘illegitimate’ opium use. In essays from the 1820s, ’30s and ’40s and in the enlarged 1856 edition of Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, De Quincey re-imagines Coleridge (and his habits) as alternate versions of Marley’s Ghost from A Christmas Carol, as Caliban “fretting his very heart-strings against the rivets of his chain,” and as a squabbling “Transcendental Philosopher” engaged in farcical debate with boys at a druggist’s shop. De Quincey constructs what I term a literary model of habit – one that redeploys the supernatural, the exotic, and the comically absurd in texts from Shakespeare to Dickens to textualize ready-made images of cultural anxieties about habit. The literary model of habit constitutes a philological pre-history for addiction, one that underwrites Louise Foxcroft’s recent “Making” of addiction and Susan Zieger’s “Invention” of the addict during the nineteenth century.

Jason Richards, “Emerson and the Gothic” / 61

Although typically recognized for his Transcendental idealism, Ralph Waldo Emerson was also deeply engaged with the Gothic, a literary mode that prior to the Civil War ran parallel to Transcendentalism but is rarely used in the same breath with Emerson, or any other Transcendentalist for that matter. Exploring his relationship with the Gothic, this essay shows how Emerson, who began writing under a long Calvinist shadow, reproduces the gloom-and-doom rhetoric of the Puritans while simultaneously drawing inspiration from European Gothics like Goethe, Coleridge, and Lord Byron. Yet after becoming a leading Transcendentalist, Emerson condemns Calvinism while evincing a postcolonial determination to cast off European influence. Nevertheless, he continues to draw lavishly from the Gothic lexicon, this time to assail religion and anything that imperils originality. The essay concludes by looking at Emerson’s full return to the Gothic in his fatalistic work The Conduct of Life, a bleak and brutal text that anticipates the pessimistic naturalism of the fin-de-siècle.

Randall Conrad, “Road to the Golden Age: Thoreau’s Old Carlisle Road” / 91

Randall Conrad draws upon ideas from science, mythology, theology, psychology, folklore, and women’s fashion notes from the mid-nineteenth century to elucidate “The Old Carlisle Road,” a 330-word passage that is usually considered the most obscure piece of writing in Henry David Thoreau’s entire journal.

Claire Charlotte McKechnie, “Man’s Best Fiend: Evolution, Rabies, and the Gothic Dog” / 115

My essay examines late-Victorian Gothic literature in the light of the rabies ‘epidemic’ that took place in the latter half of the nineteenth century. It offers an historical contextual background to the shape-shifting trope in Gothic fiction at the fin de siècle, and it reveals that rabies is a disease that is associated in literature with the act of biting and subsequent bodily change. Gothic images of shape-shifting and transformation oscillate between the historical and social context of the late Victorian period and the significant shifts in medical and scientific ‘progress’ during the 1880s and 1890s. Examining the Gothic fiction of Bram Stoker and others, I construct a new reading of the phenomenon of shape-shifting in Gothic fiction by arguing that scientific and political rhetoric associated with rabies, a rare but nevertheless much-discussed disease, influenced key Gothic writers exploring the spread of disease between animals and humans.

John Paul M. Kanwit, “‘My name is the right one’: Lady Elizabeth (Rigby) Eastlake’s Professional Art Criticism” / 141

This paper examines an influential but now neglected Victorian critic: Lady Elizabeth (Rigby) Eastlake (1809-1893). Eastlake developed a sizeable reputation beginning in the 1840s as a travel writer and art critic. She was an expert on German culture and was one of the first writers to introduce the British public to early Italian art. Most important, Eastlake differed from more canonical male art critics by focusing on both historical facts and the formal analysis of artworks. At the same time, Eastlake developed a prose style that rivaled that of John Ruskin, Walter Pater, and Oscar Wilde. In combining expertise about artworks with a critical style, Eastlake revises our notion of when and how art commentary became a professional discipline. While scholars generally claim that professional Victorian art criticism was consolidated through the work of male writers in the 1860s and 1870s, Eastlake became a specialist some twenty-five years earlier.

Ashley Faulkner, “Virgin and Child with John: Ruskin’s Typical Romance” / 173

John Ruskin, in Venice in 1876 to study some frescoes depicting St. Ursula, began having visions of St. Ursula herself, accompanied by the spirit of Rose La Touche. Van Akin Burd publicized these visions in his Christmas Story over twenty years ago, but Ruskin scholarship since has generally ignored them or sought to explain them away. In fact, the Ursuline encounter inaugurated a series of distinctive writings where Ruskin worked out his thinking on desire, girls’ education, art history, and religion. These late devotional writings on girl-saints contribute to the literature of what James Kincaid has called Victorian “child-loving,” yet remind us that Kincaid left out the Child most important to Victorians – the Christ-child. And Ruskin’s markedly Christian thought – while itself notably non-heteronormative – expressly critiques both Victorian scientism and what Ruskin considered the paganism of Walter Pater and his disciples.

Jamie Horrocks, “Vernon Lee, Oscar Wilde, and the Dialogue of ‘New Aesthetics’” / 201

Later versions of Oscar Wilde’s “The Decay of Lying” subtitle the essay “An Observation,” but when it originally appeared in the Nineteenth Century, Wilde’s treatise on aesthetics called itself “A Dialogue.” And a dialogue it is, a conversation held by characters within the essay and, I argue here, also a conversation held by Wilde with the British aesthete whose theoretical writing about ‘art for art’s sake’ preceded his own: Vernon Lee. A few years before “The Decay of Lying” introduced the fictional Cyril, his friend Vivian, and Wilde’s “doctrines of the new aesthetics” to the reading public, Lee introduced a Cyril of her own. This Cyril, one half of yet another conversation that unfolds in Lee’s essay “A Dialogue on Poetic Morality,” proposes a set of aesthetic principles which prove to be the antecedents of Wilde’s own “doctrines.” Though Wilde strips them of the ethical implications and high moral tone that they possess for Lee, these “doctrines” serve as the fundamental tenets of Wilde’s aestheticism, ironically buttressing his philosophy of artistic hedonism with what Lee calls “a religion of good, of right.” The pair of narrative dialogues that take place in “The Decay of Lying” and “A Dialogue on Poetic Morality” thus parallel the cultural dialogue enacted by the authors themselves as they borrow, reject, and revise each other’s notions about art in their fashioning of British Aestheticism.

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