Danielle Charette and Jeannette Leopold
February 4, 2013
- I. Impressions of Oliphant
- Favorite passages/volume?
- Are there noticeable differences in reading a female author?
- More developed female characters?
- “In contrast to many of her contemporaries, Oliphant depicts a drama embedded in the heroine’s broad social interactions rather than in her intimate and personal emotions” (Langland Intro 7).
- II. Compare to Trollope
- How does Oliphant present the “sinecure” differently than Trollope?
- Which is more persuasive?
- Are Oliphant and Trollope writing for the same audiences?
- Is one author more middle/high-brow than the other?
- Copyright/plagiarism issues?
- Is Oliphant infringing on Trollope’s subject matter?
- “Far from imitating Trollope, Oliphant launches a broadside at values endorsed in The Warden” (Langland Intro 23).
- What are the differences between Oliphant and Trollope in authorial voice?
- III. Character of Phoebe
- What does the title Phoebe, Junior say about how we are supposed to read Phoebe?
i. Her grandfather is the only character who actually calls her this
- “What it must be for that girl to own this old man, to live with him, and feel herself shut into his society and friends, of his choosing—to hear herself spoken of as Phoebe, junior! “ (169).
ii. What is insulting or offensive to Phoebe about the title?
- Is Phoebe believable?
i. “Given Phoebe Beecham as Mrs. Oliphant seems to draws her, this is an artistic fault; given her as we think she is really conceived by the author, it is a very subtle way of marking the strain of Tozer coarseness in her good, not quite purged out by superior educational advantages.” (The Academy)
ii. Is she a “society” woman, or simply granddaughter of a shopkeeper?
- How successfully does Oliphant render Phoebe as a social-climber? A commodity?
i. “Phoebe herself is capital” (Review in the Athenaeum)
- What do we interpret “the young lady in black” trope? (84, 150-151)
- How is Phoebe’s marriage to a man she’s not in love with construed?
i. When it comes to marriage, Phoebe “did not think of it humbly like this, but with a big capital—a Career” (14).
ii. Is Oliphant guilty of a poor moral lesson? That is, what Trollope calls portraying a “woman who is described as having obtained all that the world holds to be precious, by lavishing her charms and her caresses unworthily and heartlessly, will induce other women to do the same with theirs,—as will she who is made interesting by exhibitions of bold passion teach others to be spuriously passionate” (An Autobiography 192)
- IV. Look at the historical reviews
- a. How do the different reviewers receive Oliphant?
- b. Research Round-up: Maddie
i. Opinions on different databases/strategies for finding reviews
ii. Common v. professional readers’ opinions
- V. Working definitions of realism/Theory of Realism
- a. Watt: “the novel’s realism does not reside in the kind of life it presents, but in the way it presents it” (11)
i. A move away from universal forms
- b. Maddie’s criticism summary: Barthes and “The Reality Effect”
- c. Michael’s criticism summary: Jameson’s “Realist Floor-plan”
- How does Levine offer a “mixed” position on Realism?
- Is Oliphant more “realist” than Trollope? How does she compare to modern authors?
i. Compare Oliphant’s “reality” to Trollope’s
- f. Allison’s paper
i. “Without even realizing it, we amble like Ursula around campus or in the city, surrounded by sensation (‘reality’) yet caught up in those “castles in the air” which, for Victorian novelists like Trollope and Oliphant, are at once the birthplace and reification of the realist narrative. This concern for the practical effects of realism on our everyday experience and even our identity construction still pervades much of our lives but, like Ursula, we frequently overlook it. The reading of Victorian realist novels can help re-sensitize us to this narrative mode which has become so essential to how we internally negotiate our own experience.”
- VI. Revisit D.A. Miller
- Miller notes that there are no actual police figures present in Barchester Towers. The same seems true for Oliphant.
i. In Oliphant we witness an actual crime when Mr. May forges the bank document. Does this change the policing dynamic?
- Is Christian conscience the ultimate police?
- How about when different Christians (i.e. Anglicans and Dissenters) are policing each other?
- VII. Society and Class
- What does Oliphant mean by “Society”?
i. “Parsonage became gradually the centre of a little society” (281).
ii. Janey: “If that’s society, I don’t care for society” (303).
iii. Northcote: “Yes, society is flat enough” (165).
- Are Oliphants’ characters economically mobile?
i. Phoebe’s grandparents “remained stationary” (74)
ii. “Yet one’s poor little bit of education, one’s pretty manners, what are these to interfere with blood relationships?” (166)
- Mention of “Manchester people” (167)
- c. Sierra’s close reading: the bourgeois bookcase and Mr. Cotsdean’s letter
- Are men more able to transcend class than the women?
- Character of Mr. Copperhead: “They [women] neither themselves nor let others work—that sort. I think we could get on with a deal fewer women, I must allow. There’s where Providence is in mistake. We don’t want ‘em in England; it’s a waste of raw material. They’re bad for the men and they ain’t much good for themselves that I can see” (323)
- Beyond the obvious sexism and brutishness of Mr. Copperhead, is he touching on any truths?
- Ursula and Janey pine for a “Career”
- Does Mr. Copperhead’s grammar and lack of education soften his opinion, or make it worse?
- 2. Miriam’s close reading on Copperhead
ii. “Perhaps the manners of Mr. Copperhead, the wealthy contractor… are impossible in the rude insolence of their boost of wealth. A man may talk of his money; but one inclines to think that such talk as Mr. Copperhead’s should be separated from modern society by long centuries and the interposition of the Dark Ages” (The Saturday Review)
- Is the review an attack on Oliphant’s “realism” because her characters aren’t believable?
- How does Copperhead feel about tradition?
- Does Oliphant offer a vehicle for getting beyond class and still respecting tradition?
- How to think about Mr. May’s cruelty toward his children, particularly his daughters?
i. His attitude toward class?
- “No shopkeeping friends for me; but in this individual case I am willing to make an exception” (207)
- “May is only commonplace where is not repulsive (Review in the Athenaeum)
- Versus: “The characters of her stories are simple, everyday people, seldom moved by lofty ideals, but eminently true to the common life we witness around us” (Review in The Examiner)
ii. Compare May’s behavior to that of Tozer, who erupts in anger toward end of novel: “What has a chit like you to do with business?” (365)
- VIII. Euthanasia?!?
- Copperhead: “Kill ‘em off—no; it’s against what you benevolent humbugs call the spirit of the time, and Christianity, and all that; but there’s such a thing as carrying Christianity too far; that’s my opinion. I call it encouraging those old beggars to live” (332).
- Phoebe: “I think there is a great deal to be said in favor of euthanasia…but then it would have to be with the consent of the victims. When anyone found himself useless, unnecessary to the world, or unhappy in it—“ (332-3).
i. What purpose does this conversation serve?
ii. Where does it come from?
iii. Is Copperhead stumbling upon some sort of truth when he calls ministers “humbugs”?
- Discuss May and Northcote’s attitudes toward the poor
- IX. Oliphant’s Liberalism?
- Marketplace of ideas?
i. “Very well; after all women are half the world, and their opinion is as good as another” (168).
ii. “Men has their public opinions, Sir, as every one should speak up bold for, and stick to; that’s my way of thinking. But I wouldn’t bring it no further; not, as might he said, into the domestic circle…You say your say in public, whatever you may on a subject, but you don’t bear no malice; it ain’t a personal question, that’s my sentiments” (241).
- How do characters from different economic strata display levels of tolerance?