The Things That Matter: What Seven Classic Novels Have to Say about the Stages of Life

By Hall, Gary R. | Anglican Theological Review, Winter 2008 | Go to article overview

The Things That Matter: What Seven Classic Novels Have to Say about the Stages of Life


Hall, Gary R., Anglican Theological Review


The Things That Matter: What Seven Classic Novels Have to Say About the Stages of Life. By Edward Mendelson. New York: Pantheon Books, 2006. 288 pp. $23.00 (cloth), $14.00 (paper).

The late philosopher Richard Rorty used to complain that, in a time when philosophers were turning to hterature, literary critics were trying to become "B-minus philosophers." For Rorty, those who worked with texts professionally surrendered their strengths when they turned away from texts and toward theory and cultural studies. Obviously, the same could be said for theologians and biblical critics.

Edward Mendelson, Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia and literary executor of W. H. Auden's estate, is on familiar ground when it comes to the intersection of rehgious and textual questions. The seven English novels he examines in The Things That Matter, while not conventionally "rehgious," necessarily pose the large questions that humans ask and that religions have always attempted to answer. "This book is about life as it is interpreted by books," says Mendelson at the very start. His premise is that anyone who reads a novel takes "an interest both in the closed fictional world of that novel and the ways in which the book provides models or examples of the kinds of life that a reader might or might not choose to live." Thus, "A reader who identifies with the characters in a novel is not reacting in a naïve way that ought to be outgrown or transcended, but is performing one of the central acts of literary understanding" (pp. xi, xii). Happily for all of us interested in what it means to be a human being, Edward Mendelson is giving us permission to restore literature to the fullness of its role in the reflective enterprise.

Mendelson takes the tittle of The Things That Matter from two Virginia Woolf quotations, and three of the seven novels he examines are hers: Mrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, and Between the Acts. The other four are Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights, Charlotte Bronte's fane Eyre, and George Eliot's Middlemarch. Mendelson's argument is that each of these seven novels presents models for the hves we might choose to live in each of life's successive stages.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Things That Matter: What Seven Classic Novels Have to Say about the Stages of Life
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.