Faithful Realism: Elizabeth Gaskell and Leo Tolstoy: A Comparative Study


"Criticism of Elizabeth Gaskell of the last half century has tended to concentrate upon her contribution to the Victorian "social-problem" novel or upon her achievements as a female novelist writing about women. This book offers a reading of Elizabeth Gaskell's work which runs counter to the established view of her as a sociopolitical and/or provincial writer whose work is principally of interest to social historians or to those interested in women's studies. Josie Billington seeks to resituate Gaskell's work within the wider tradition of nineteenth-century realism and argues that Gaskell deserves to be read not as a poor second to George Eliot but as offering an English Victorian equivalent of the religious realism of Leo Tolstoy. By bringing together for comparison two writers whose realist mode and vision rests upon a form of religious belief, and by setting these against the more skeptical forms of realism offered by George Eliot and Thomas Hardy, the book also offers a strong challenge to the accepted view of the nineteenth-century realist novel as an essentially secular form - the epic, as Lukacs put it, of a world abandoned by God. This book makes a highly original contribution to Gaskell scholarship not only in the fresh emphasis it gives to Gaskell's work, but in the subtle close reading it applies to original manuscript material and the consequent teasing out of Gaskell's characteristic habits of mind and composition. In addition, the book makes a valuable contribution to the study of nineteenth-century realist fiction in relation to belief and secularization in the Victorian period." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved


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