Week 15

Week XV Outline
Maddie Charne and Sierra Eckert
ENGL 111: Victorian Literature and Culture
Week 15: April 29, 2013


Oscar Wilde, Picture of Dorian Gray;Henry James, “The Figure in the Carpet,” “The Art of Fiction”; George Eliot, “The Lifted Veil,” and Margaret Oliphant, “The Library Window”; Audrey Jaffe, “Modern and Postmodern Novel Theory”; Joseph Childers, “Victorian Novel Theory”




  1. Framing Realism: The Construction of the Author in “The Art of Fiction”
  2. Henry James, from  “The Art of Fiction”:

“The execution belongs to the author alone; it is what is most personal to him, and we measure him by that […] His manner is his secret, not necessarily a jealous one. He cannot disclose it as a general thing if he would” (385).


Jeanette’s criticism summary

  1. Using the framework of “Art of Fiction” – how can we read the dialogue between Vereker and the narrator in “The Figure in the Carpet”


Jeanette’s seminar paper

“Corvick knew that there was a buried treasure, a figure in the carpet, before the story started. […] The narrator could not find interest in the idea of the figure in the carpet until the author in question posed the figure specifically as a riddle and a challenge” (Jeanette)

  1. Specific: Vereker vs. Corvick
  2. Narrator vs. Vereker (author figure)
  3. Narrator vs. Henry James
  4. Reader vs. Henry James
  5. More general antinomies: author/narrator; author/reviewer; author/reader


  1. The Nature of Reviewing & the Reading Public:
    1. Critics and the New Literary Novel:

Miriam’s criticism summary of Childers

  1. The reviews of Dorian Gray
  2. Types of reviewing: The moral/ethical review:- “It is the picturesque, not ethical, aspects of vice and virtue that interest Mr. Wilde” (Pall Mall)

“Getting at” meaning?

a. In the reviews of Dorian Gray

Examples from The Picture of Dorian Gray, An Annotated and Uncensored Edition

Publication history & how publication choices influence meaning

– the six chapters added in the later edition


b. The role of meaning in “The Figure of the Carpet”

The representation of the hermeneutical process

– the quest structure: the epic search for meaning

the extensive metaphoric

– the romantic structure: eroticizing the search for meaning

– close reading of the physical manifestation/descriptions of the

interpreters and the interpersonal relationships (Vereker/narrator; Vereker/Corvick; Corvick/Gwendolyn; Gwendolyn/narrator; Gwendolyn/Deane; Deane/narrator)

  1. The Representation of Interpretation in Dorian Gray
    1. Framing DG with Henry James: conceptions of artistic and empirical truth

“[B]oth James and Wilde maintain a realist framework. Nevertheless, they

acknowledge that they are writing toward a higher aesthetic, in which the empirical nature of the novel and a priori artistictruths are in fundamental tension with one another” (Danielle)

Danielle’s seminar paper

  1. Bringing Art into Life:

i.     To what extent does meaning depend on the reader/viewer/audience of art?

ii.     “Art lives upon discussion, upon experiment, upon curiosity” (James, 386).

  1. To what extent are artistic aesthetics & truths a priori or a posteriori?

-In DG

-Callback: “intentionality” in Wimsatt & Beardsley

– Meaning as negotiated through the reading process

– Meaning as “hidden” beneath the surface as semiotically  by the author/narrator

– DG, but also looking back to all the texts


Cathy’s close reading:

i.     The realm of art and the realm of life: reading art in different contexts

ii.     Art that “breaks out” of the realm of art: Sybil, Dorian, etc

“As much as Wilde would have loved to be the artist that Dorian was,

unencumbered by the social pressures as a vividly desirable piece of art,

Wilde needed to appeal himself to the public while striving for an art separate from life” (Cathy)

  1. Zooming out: Realism and Its Critical Narratives
    1. Close reading: The Preface

“The artist can express everything […] All art is at once surface and symbol.

Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril.

Those who read the symbol do so at their peril.

It is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors.”

  1. What theories/narratives of realism does Wilde respond to and further?

i.     The depiction of art in DG :

“All Art is quite useless”

ii.     Henry James: “A novel is in its broadest definition a personal, a direct impression of life”(384)

iii.     DG and the Bildungsroman:

  1. Individual/social
  1. Realism and Realist Character: Tracing the use of names in Victorian Fiction

i.     How do names reflect different conceptions of character?

“Deep” psychology vs. archetypal

  1. Character names in Henry James and Wilde
  2. Callback: character names in Trollope & Oliphant

ii.     Who/what is “Dorian Gray”?

  1. Historicism, etc.

Maddie’s seminar paper:

  1. Dorian Gray as an engagement with the multiple subjects of art: work of art, artist, object of art, and spectator
  2. The types of art in DG and the artists: visual, music, theater, writing
  3.  How the content (art, theories of art) influence the form of the novel


– Fictions about fiction

-Cross-form metafictionality in DG

– The relationship between metafictionality & realism

Why is metafiction such a common trope in Victorian lit and how/why did

Victorian authors engage with cross-form metafiction?

“In The Picture of Dorian Gray, Wilde seems to being using metafiction to

explore not only Basil, Dorian, and Lord Henry’s relationship to art, but

also his own relationship to his novel, and to the reading public, emblematized by the reviewers” (Maddie).

  1. Scenes of Writing and Art as a Medium for Life

Breaking down the barriers between art and life Alison’s seminar paper

Callback to Oliphant – Reading as a writer and writing as a reader

“Embodied” art and the development of subjectivity through form

How do these depictions of art as a medium for life disrupt/reinforce our narratives about gender

  1. [SE1] In DG:

-Lord Henry to Dorian: “life has been your art” (247).

-“An artist should create beautiful things, but put nothing of his own life into them. We live in an age when men treat art as if it were meant to be a form of autobiography. We have lost the abstract sense of beauty” (85).

  1. In “The Library Window”:

– The window that cannot be found once the narrator enters the library

– The scene of reading (p 252)

-Spying on the Writer:

“He was sitting in the chair […] in front of the escritoire–with the back of his head towards me, writing […] It is always interesting to have a glimpse like this of an unknown life–to see so much and yet know so little, and to wonder, perhaps, what the man is doing, and why he never turns his head. One would go to the window–but not too close, lest he should see you and think you were spying upon him–and one would ask, Is he still there? is he writing, writing, always? I wonder what he is writing!”(Oliphant 274-275)


  1. In “The Lifted Veil”:

-From Miriam’s seminar paper:

“Even if Latimer can see into other people’s minds, he still has to interpret what is actually there” (Miriam 4)

-Human natures “were seen as if thrust asunder by a microscopic vision, that showed all the intermediate frivolities, all the suppressed egoism, all the struggling chaos of puerilities, meanness, vague, capricious memories, and indolent make-shift thoughts, from which human words and deeds emerge like leaflets covering a fermenting heap” (Eliot “The Lifted Veil” 30).”

  1. Finally, from Auora Leigh:

“But poets should/ Exert a double vision; should have eyes/ to see near things as

comprehensively/ As if afar they took their point of sight,/ And distant things as intimately deep/ As if they touched them. Let us strive for this.” (152)

  1. Realism and its “Ghostly” Forms
    1. Generic Boundaries
    2.  The “ghost” of realism in the Eliot and Oliphant pieces
    3. Why the turn to the fantastic/romantic/supernatural?

-Callback: Dickens – Mrs. Havisham’s supernatural house

  1. How do these “ghost stories” stretch the boundaries of realism?
  2. How are they, in a way, about realist fiction?
  1. The Hyperreal, the Realist/(or Gothic?) Detail, and the Reality Effect

How the critics have approached it so far:

– Barthes, Jameson


– Realist detail vs. totality; realist detail vs. gothic/sensational description

NOW: What is DG doing to realist detail?

  1. Research & Dorian Gray
    1. Researching “hedonism”

-How does this differ from the research strategies in the other novels we’ve read?

-How does Wilde’s “research” influence/permeate the form of the text?


  1. Close reading: Chapter XI and decadent form

– What is the role of the narrator/author in this form?

– How do we categorize this style in the narratives of realism

– Formal techniques in Dorian Gray

Henry James on form: The novel is an “exercise” in “freedom.”

“The form is to be appreciated after the fact” (384).


  1. The representation of research throughout the semester

– Trollope, Oliphant, Reade, Eliot, Collins, Wilde

– Novel-reading as research

The reader as writer and researcher (and artist?)


  1. Big Data, Research, and the Victorian Novel: Distant Reading and Digital Tools
    1. Using Voyant & Google NGram
    2. What were our experiences?

ii.     Show and tell: Share interesting visuals and unexpected findings

  1. What research questions/experiments have we devised?


  1. How might we situate “distant” reading in our theoretical arsenal?

i.     How useful is this kind of empirical approach?

ii.     Do such methodologies give us a better grasp on the text?


  1. Distant reading, “not close reading” and excerpting

i.     Callback to Price, Dames

  1. History of Seminar Research Practices

(Perhaps document by recording)

  1. Trace our research practices (digital and non-digital) over the semester

i.     How have we constructed “indices” to our syllabus/corpus of texts?

  1. Two Ways of Tracing the Syllabus: Theories and Themes
    1. Theoretical approaches to the novel (An overview – to be discussed in more depth later)
    2. Christina’s criticism summary of Jaffe
    3. Speaking generally, what narratives can we construct about the role of theory in/on/within/around novels?
      1. Thematic approaches to the novel
    4. What themes have we, individually and collectively traced?

i.     Ex: gender, religion, economics, self-referentiality, etc…

  1. Framing Realism: Beginnings and Endings

The first class: Beginning of the Warden

“The Rev. Septimus Harding was, a few years since, a beneficed clergyman residing in the cathedral town of ––––; let us call it Barchester. Were we to name Wells or Salisbury, Exeter, Hereford, or Gloucester, it might be presumed that something personal was intended; and as this tale will refer mainly to the cathedral dignitaries of the town in question, we are anxious that no personality may be suspected.”

Beginning of Middlemarch

“Who that cares much to know the history of man, and how the mysterious mixture behaves under the varying experiments of Time, has not dwelt, at least briefly, on the life of Saint Theresa, has not smiled with some gentleness at the thought of the little girl walking forth one morning hand-in-hand with her still smaller brother, to go and seek martyrdom in the country of the Moors? […]Here and there is born a Saint Theresa, foundress of nothing, whose loving heart-beats and sobs after an unattained goodness tremble off and are dispersed among hindrances, instead of centring in some long-recognizable deed.”

Beginning of Great Expectations

“My father’s family name being Pirrip, and my Christian name Philip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip. So, I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip.”

Beginning of The Moonstone

“Extracted from a Family Paper

I address these lines—written in India—to my relatives in England.

My object is to explain the motive which has induced me to refuse the right hand of friendship to my cousin, John Herncastle. […] And I declare, on my word of honour, that what I am now about to write is, strictly and literally, the truth.”

The end of “The Figure in the Carpet”

“I saw the immediate shock throb away little by little and then gather again into waves of wonder and curiosity—waves that promised, I could perfectly judge, to break in the end with the fury of my own highest tides.  I may say that to-day as victims of unappeased desire there isn’t a pin to choose between us.  The poor man’s state is almost my consolation; there are really moments when I feel it to be quite my revenge. (312-313).

The end of Mill On The Floss

“Nature repairs her ravages, but not all. The uptorn trees are not rooted again; the parted hills are left scarred; if there is a new growth, the trees are not the same as the old, and the hills underneath their green vesture bear the marks of the past rending. To the eyes that have dwelt on the past, there is no thorough repair. Dorlcote Mill was rebuilt. […]Near that brick grave there was a tomb erected, very soon after the flood, for two bodies that were found in close embrace […]The tomb bore the names of Tom and Maggie Tulliver, and below the names it was written,–

‘In their death they were not divided.’”

The end of Barchester Towers

“One word of Mr. Harding, and we have done. He is still precentor of Barchester and still pastor of the little church of St. Cuthbert’s. In spite of what he has so often said himself, he is not even yet an old man. […] The author now leaves him in the hands of his readers: not as a hero, not as a man to be admired and talked of, not as a man who should be toasted at public dinners and spoken of with conventional absurdity as a perfect divine, but as a good man, without guile, believing humbly in the religion which he has striven to teach, and guided by the precepts which he has striven to learn.”

The end of Dorian Gray

“When they entered they found, hanging upon the wall, a splendid portrait of their master as they had last seen him, in all the wonder of his exquisite youth and beauty. Lying on the floor was a dead man, in evening dress, with a knife in his heart. He was withered, wrinkled, and loathsome of visage. It was not till they had examined the rings that they recognized who it was.










Big Picture: Critical Antimonies:

–       Reading for “intentionality” vs. close reading

–       Close vs. Distant Reading

–       Intensive vs. Extensive

–       Suspicious vs. Surface or “just” reading

–       Poovey &Van Ghent’s cultural/historical critique vs. close reading and formalist critique




Big picture: Victorian Fiction and Canonicity

  1. Reviewing and Canon Formation
  2. Re-framing the canon: Oliphant, Trollope, Reade vis-a-vis Dickens, Eliot, Wilde

i.     What is the role of research in “producing” canonical/anti-canonical works?

ii.     Thinking back to Poovey, what are the narratives we can tell about the Victorian canon?

iii.     How

  1. Syllabus as a canon? – Rachel
  2. Classroom archive as canon








 [SE1]Thoughts, Rachel?