Synopses & Reviews
Why Victorian Literature Still Matters
is a passionate defense of the enduring impact of Victorian realism today. With a nod to the popularity of phrenology within that era, noted literary scholar Philip Davis points to a corner of the human mind where all Victorian literature resides. This "Victorian bump," he argues, is an area concerned with human purpose, morality, secularization and belief, human stories, and living in time.
Rather than emphasizing Victorian literature as an historical and reassuring body of knowledge, Davis explains its centrality for contemporary readers as an important mode of thinking and feeling, and provides a gateway of analysis into the popular prose and poetry of the Victorian Age. Why Victorian Literature Still Matters is a positive manifesto, inviting readers to discover what they really like about a book. The author offers an insightful window for readers to formulate a sense of what Victorian literature means for them and how it relates to our wider human existence.
“This book argues fearlessly and passionately for the relevance of Victorian literature to contemporary society, addressing a question too rarely asked in literary study: why should we care?”
–Marion Thain, University of Birmingham
"Philip Davis's Blackwell manifesto offers a spirited, polemical defence of Victorian literature in general, and Victorian realism in particular, against its modernist and postmodernist detractors." (Oxford Journals, 1 June 2011)
"In Why Victorian Literature Still Matters, Davis writes as a reader. Readers, as he defines them, are different from scholars and critics. Who distance themselves from the worlds before them by turning to history or theory instead. Readers, by contrast, do not distance themselves at all, but rather seek ever more closeness." (Victorian Studies, Winter 2010)"Davis's manifesto will capture the attention of a wide readership of intellectuals and serious readers alike who will appreciate his rigorous discussions and insightful analyses, for while he directs such readers away from questions merely academic and critical, he is not afraid to reveal the personal significance of Victorian literature to modern sensibilities." (The Cambridge Quarterly, June 2009)
"With its thought-provoking readings and non-pretentious display of erudition, the book could serve well as a useful introduction to the literature of the Victorian period or as a source of stimulation for teachers and scholars in the field." (Neo-Victorian Studies, Winter 2008/2009)
"Why Victorian Literature Still Matters is at its best when it attends to the small detail, the odd or apt grammatical gesture, the minute editorial changes that produce meaning at the most micro of levels." (Times Higher Education Supplement, January 2009)
“Part of a series exploring a broad range of subject areas, this book is admittedly subjective in its exploration of the relevance of Victorian literature in the 21st century. Davis notes that it is intended for the reader rather than the scholar, but it will be of more interest to academic than to public libraries.” (Library Journal, January 2009)
"Philip Davis's [book] ... Was fascinating about Victorian writing, and one of the best books written about how novels can work." (The Guardian, November 2008)
Why Victorian Literature Still Matters
is a passionate defense of Victorian literature’s enduring impact and importance for readers interested in the relationship between literature and life, reading and thinking.
- Explores the prominence of Victorian literature for contemporary readers and academics, through the author’s unique insight into why it is still important today
- Provides new frames of interpretation for key Victorian works of literature and close readings of important texts
- Argues for a new engagement with Victorian literature, from general readers and scholars alike
- Seeks to remove Victorian literature from an entrenched set of values, traditions and perspectives - demonstrating how vital and resonant it is for modern literary and cultural analysis
About the Author
Philip Davis is Professor of English Literature in the School of English, University of Liverpool, UK. He is the author of The Victorians and, most recently, Bernard Malamud: A Writer's Life. His other books include The Experience of Reading; Real Voices: On Reading, and Memory and Writing: from Wordsworth to Lawrence, as well as works on Shakespeare and Samuel Johnson. He is also editor of The Reader, a non-academic literary magazine aimed at the serious reader.
Table of Contents
Introduction: The Victorian Bump and Where to Find It.
1. Victorian Hard Wiring.
2. Isaiah and Ezekiel – But What About Charley?.
3. Not So Straightforward: Realist Prose and What It Hides Within Itself.
4. A Literature In Time.
5. Individual Agents.
6. A Few of My Favorite Things: A Glove, a Sandal, and Plaited Hair.