The Power of Lies: Transgression in Victorian Fiction

The Power of Lies: Transgression in Victorian Fiction

The Power of Lies: Transgression in Victorian Fiction

The Power of Lies: Transgression in Victorian Fiction

Synopsis

Although moral earnestness has long been considered characteristic of the Victorians, Kucich maintains that English fiction in the nineteenth century was as interested in lies as in honesty. In this important book, Kucich explores the fascination with lying in novels by Anthony Trollope, Wilkie Collins, Elizabeth Gaskell, Ellen Wood, Thomas Hardy, and Sarah Grand.

Excerpt

This book is about Victorian England's fascination with lying -- or, more properly, with slippery distinctions between lying and truth-telling. It is also about the way this fascination with ethical boundaries shaped Victorian attitudes toward social distinctions, particularly -- but not exclusively -- those of class and gender. Victorian literary criticism of recent years has been steadily drawn to the play of boundary phenomena -- public and private, performative and secretive, criminal and legal, healthy and ill, masculine and feminine. Although I share the inclination of many critics to find the breakdown of these boundaries more interesting than the boundaries themselves, I have resisted the common tendency to interpret such breakdowns as symptoms of conceptual crisis. I am more interested in how the transgression of conceptual boundaries is socially and symbolically productive. in this sense, I find Victorian blurrings of the honesty/dishonesty distinction to be a crucial instrument of symbolic transformation, which could be used to rearticulate lines of class and gender conventionally mapped through ethical oppositions. This symbolic productivity was enormously important in all phases of Victorian culture, but it was particularly useful to the social strategies of certain middle-class elites: professionals, cultural intellectuals, writers.

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