The Spectacle of Intimacy: A Public Life for the Victorian Family

Princeton University Press
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Love of home life, the intimate moments a family peacefully enjoyed in seclusion, had long been considered a hallmark of English character even before the Victorian era. But the Victorians attached unprecedented importance to domesticity, romanticizing the family in every medium from novels to government reports, to the point where actual families felt anxious and the public developed a fierce appetite for scandal. Here Karen Chase and Michael Levenson explore how intimacy became a spectacle and how this paradox energized Victorian culture between 1835 and 1865. They tell a story of a society continually perfecting the forms of private pleasure and yet forever finding its secrets exposed to view. The friction between the two conditions sparks insightful discussions of authority and sentiment, empire and middle-class politics.

The book recovers neglected episodes of this mid-century drama: the adultery trial of Caroline Norton and the Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne; the Bedchamber Crisis of the young Queen Victoria; the Bloomer craze of the 1850s; and Robert Kerr's influential treatise, celebrating the ideal of the English Gentleman's House. The literary representation of household life--in Dickens, Tennyson, Ellis, and Oliphant, among others--is placed in relation to such public spectacles as the Deceased Wife's Sister Bill of 1848, the controversy over divorce in the years 1854-1857, and the triumphant return of Florence Nightingale from the Crimea. These colorful incidents create a telling new portrait of Victorian family life, one that demands a fundamental rethinking of the relation between public and private spheres.

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About the author

Karen Chase, Professor of English at the University of Virginia, is the author of Eros and Psyche: The Representation of Personality in Charlotte Brontë, Charles Dickens, and George Eliot. She has also written a book-length critical study of Middlemarch.
Michael Levenson is also Professor of English at the University of Virginia. He is the author of A Genealogy of Modernism: A Study of English Literary Doctrine 1908-1922 and Modernism and the Fate of Individuality: Character and Form in the Modern English Novel, and is the editor of the Cambridge Companion to Modernism.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Aug 15, 2009
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Pages
264
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ISBN
9781400831128
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Language
English
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Genres
Literary Criticism / European / English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh
Literary Criticism / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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For more than two hundred years after William Shakespeare's death, no one doubted that he had written his plays. Since then, however, dozens of candidates have been proposed for the authorship of what is generally agreed to be the finest body of work by a writer in the English language. In this remarkable book, Shakespeare scholar James Shapiro explains when and why so many people began to question whether Shakespeare wrote his plays. Among the doubters have been such writers and thinkers as Sigmund Freud, Henry James, Mark Twain, and Helen Keller. It is a fascinating story, replete with forgeries, deception, false claimants, ciphers and codes, conspiracy theories—and a stunning failure to grasp the power of the imagination.

As Contested Will makes clear, much more than proper attribution of Shakespeare’s plays is at stake in this authorship controversy. Underlying the arguments over whether Christopher Marlowe, Francis Bacon, or the Earl of Oxford wrote Shakespeare’s plays are fundamental questions about literary genius, specifically about the relationship of life and art. Are the plays (and poems) of Shakespeare a sort of hidden autobiography? Do Hamlet, Macbeth, and the other great plays somehow reveal who wrote them?

Shapiro is the first Shakespeare scholar to examine the authorship controversy and its history in this way, explaining what it means, why it matters, and how it has persisted despite abundant evidence that William Shakespeare of Stratford wrote the plays attributed to him. This is a brilliant historical investigation that will delight anyone interested in Shakespeare and the literary imagination.
A unique chronicle of childhood polio told with a remarkable blend of provocative reflection, humor, and pluck.

In 1954, Karen Chase was a ten-year-old girl playing Monopoly in the polio ward when the radio blared out the news that Dr. Jonas Salk had developed the polio vaccine. The discovery came too late for her, and Polio Boulevard is Chase’s unique chronicle of her childhood while fighting polio. From her lively sickbed she experiences puppy love, applies to the Barbizon School of Modeling, and dreams of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a polio patient who became President of the United States.

Chase, now an accomplished poet who survived her illness, tells a story that flows backward and forward in time from childhood to adulthood. Woven throughout are the themes of how private and public history get braided together, how imagination is shaped when your body can’t move but your mind can, and how sexuality blooms in a young girl laid up in bed. Chase’s imagination soars in this narrative of illness and recovery, a remarkable blend of provocative reflection, humor, and pluck.

“…a vivid portrait of what it was like to grow up shadowed by a plague and how a sense of family can arise among people thrown together by miserable circumstances … Chase brings her poetic sensibilities to the page in discussions of the way history is not just huge wars and battles but small, personal skirmishes too … she elegantly conveys the experience of one small part of the world—her own—at a particular point in a much larger history.” — Library Journal

“Polio and poetry would seem to be near-opposites. Yet in Karen Chase’s compelling memoir of a terrifying disease she and so many others contracted in childhood, we watch polio’s unwelcome transformations to be matched and outdone by the twists and turns of a poet’s mind. Bravely and with surprising humor, Chase has turned the unlikely, the unlucky, even the tragic into beauty.” — Mary Jo Salter

“In the early ’50s, during the polio epidemic, I worked as a physical therapist. I saw firsthand the crushing suffering children and their families endured. I also saw their bravery and love for each other. Karen’s memoir is a truly remarkable piece of history.” — Olympia Dukakis
A unique chronicle of childhood polio told with a remarkable blend of provocative reflection, humor, and pluck.

In 1954, Karen Chase was a ten-year-old girl playing Monopoly in the polio ward when the radio blared out the news that Dr. Jonas Salk had developed the polio vaccine. The discovery came too late for her, and Polio Boulevard is Chase’s unique chronicle of her childhood while fighting polio. From her lively sickbed she experiences puppy love, applies to the Barbizon School of Modeling, and dreams of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a polio patient who became President of the United States.

Chase, now an accomplished poet who survived her illness, tells a story that flows backward and forward in time from childhood to adulthood. Woven throughout are the themes of how private and public history get braided together, how imagination is shaped when your body can’t move but your mind can, and how sexuality blooms in a young girl laid up in bed. Chase’s imagination soars in this narrative of illness and recovery, a remarkable blend of provocative reflection, humor, and pluck.

“…a vivid portrait of what it was like to grow up shadowed by a plague and how a sense of family can arise among people thrown together by miserable circumstances … Chase brings her poetic sensibilities to the page in discussions of the way history is not just huge wars and battles but small, personal skirmishes too … she elegantly conveys the experience of one small part of the world—her own—at a particular point in a much larger history.” — Library Journal

“Polio and poetry would seem to be near-opposites. Yet in Karen Chase’s compelling memoir of a terrifying disease she and so many others contracted in childhood, we watch polio’s unwelcome transformations to be matched and outdone by the twists and turns of a poet’s mind. Bravely and with surprising humor, Chase has turned the unlikely, the unlucky, even the tragic into beauty.” — Mary Jo Salter

“In the early ’50s, during the polio epidemic, I worked as a physical therapist. I saw firsthand the crushing suffering children and their families endured. I also saw their bravery and love for each other. Karen’s memoir is a truly remarkable piece of history.” — Olympia Dukakis
The Literary Agenda is a series of short polemical monographs about the importance of literature and of reading in the wider world and about the state of literary education inside schools and universities. The category of 'the literary' has always been contentious. What is clear, however, is how increasingly it is dismissed or is unrecognised as a way of thinking or an arena for thought. It is sceptically challenged from within, for example, by the sometimes rival claims of cultural history, contextualized explanation, or media studies. It is shaken from without by even greater pressures: by economic exigency and the severe social attitudes that can follow from it; by technological change that may leave the traditional forms of serious human communication looking merely antiquated. For just these reasons this is the right time for renewal, to start reinvigorated work into the meaning and value of literary reading. We think of the humanities as a cluster of specialized academic activities. So they are. But they also belong to the ordinary world, the world where students and faculty make connections and careers; where they eat and drink and fret; where they move through new buildings and old seminar rooms. In The Humanities and Everyday Life Michael Levenson places academic humanities within this field of daily life, where abstract thought stands alongside material need. The humanities also live outside the university in activities that have been overlooked or undervalued: in book clubs, in historical re-enactments, in visits to museums and libraries, in private collections, in contributions to Wikipedia, and in amateur genealogy. These activities belong to the humanities, quite as much as research published in specialty journals. The Humanities and Everyday Life addresses both the university and the world beyond, to see where they meet and fail to meet, and to argue that the walls between them should lower. At the centre of the book is an account of experts and expertise, a controversial topic that poses questions about professionals versus amateurs and what constitutes expertise. Drawing on the recent rejection of political elite expertise, as seen in the Brexit referendum and the American election campaign, as well as examples from science and medicine, the volume reveals the unsteady boundary between specialized knowledge and public curiosity. The Humanities and Everyday Life asks us to accept that the humanities are as enduring as religion, are indeed both rival and complement to religion; and to acknowledge that despite imperfections, they give an image of many-dimensioned life. The humanities are worth improving on their own terms, but also because, just often enough, they constitute an exemplary micro-society, one that will illuminate still more widely when academic thought meets the light of the everyday.
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