Drawing on the rhetorical work of James Phelan, Wayne Booth's ethical criticism, recent work on William Makepeace Thackeray, as well as an understanding of the role of skepticism in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century English thought, Thackeray's Skeptical Narrative and the "Perilous Trade" of Authorship makes a substantial contribution to nineteenth-century reading practices, as well as narratology in general. Judith Fisher combines in this study rhetorical and ethical analysis of Thackeray's narrative techniques to trace how his fiction develops to educate his reader into what she terms a "hermeneutic of skepticism." This is a kind of poised reading which enables his readers to integrate his fiction into their life in what Thackeray called "a world without God" without becoming pessimistic or fatalistic. Although Thackeray's narrative strategies have been the subject of study, most have focused on Vanity Fair and Henry Esmond only, and none look as closely as does this study at actual rhetorical techniques such as his use of pronominalization to interpolate the reader into his skeptical discourse. Fisher also brings her analysis to bear on The Adventures of Philip and The Virginians, Thackeray's last two complete novels, both of which were critical failures even as contemporary critics acknowledged their stylistic excellence. This is the first study to attempt to understand the puzzle of those two books; Fisher recovers them from their marginalized position in Thackeray's oeuvre. Fisher expertly weaves an accessible narrative theory with thoroughgoing knowledge of Thackeray's life in an integrated reading of his entire works. Reading Thackeray holistically in spite of his own disruptive practices, she does full justice to his critical skepticism while elucidating his canon for a new readership.
Judith L. Fisher […] contributes a fascinating book that encompasses Thackeray's familiar texts […] as well as the later novels… Her comprehensive attention to Thackeray's narrative technique in the novels results in an important contribution to scholars interested in any of his elusive narrators.' Victorian Periodicals Review
Contents:The hermeneutic of skepticism;The "Right Line I": Narratorial collusion and the perils of "Sternism"; A version of a "Man and a Brother": Or, character into narrator; The rebellious text and the resisting reader; The secret history of Henry Esmond; Infinite isolations; "The Abode of Bliss and the Halls of Prismatic Splendour"; Bibliography; Index.
The Nineteenth Century Series aims to develop and promote new approaches and fresh directions in scholarship and criticism on nineteenth-century literature and culture. The series encourages work which erodes the traditional boundary between Romantic and Victorian studies and welcomes interdisciplinary approaches to the literary, religious, scientific and visual cultures of the period. While British literature and culture are the core subject matter of monographs and collections in the series, the editors encourage proposals which explore the wider, international contexts of nineteenth-century literature – transatlantic, European and global. Print culture, including studies in the newspaper and periodical press, book history, life writing and gender studies are particular strengths of this established series as are high quality single author studies. The series also embraces research in the field of digital humanities. The editors invite proposals from both younger and established scholars in all areas of nineteenth-century literary studies.