This book deals with important aspects of nineteenth-century culture, literary, philosophical and scientific, which remain live issues today. It examines in detail the writings of Dickens, Charlotte and Emily Bronte, James Hamilton, Eliot Mill, Arnold, Pater and Newman and makes substantial reference to Hawthorne, Dickinson, Spencer, Carlyle and Hardy, all in the context of the dominant intellectual movements of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The thought of Hamilton, Newman, Mill and Spencer is contrasted with that of twentieth-century figures like the philosophers Frege, Husserl, Wittenstein, Merleau-Ponty, the neo-Darwinists Monod and Dawkins and critics like Eagleton and Miller. William Myers argues for a traditional view, deriving largely from Newman, of the unity and autonomy of individual human beings. He suggests that science and literature depend on persons being actively and responsively present to each other, that freedom is always interpersonal, and that in great literature we can discover the workings of this deep mutuality and its enemies.
Table of Contents
Contents: Introduction; Nothing new; Part One: The Presence of Persons: Where are Nathaniel Hawthorne, Emily Dickinson and Daniel C. Dennett?; Evolution and progress: Herbert Spencer, Thomas Hardy and Amartya Sen; Why John Stuart Mill chose to go to the Devil; Walter Pater and the higher decadence; Arnold and Newman: the phenomenological option; Autobiography and the illative sense; Part Two: Manifold and Complex Corruption: Celibate men and angelic women in Oliver Twist; The radicalism of Little Dorrit; Part Three: Luminously Self-Evident Beings: The Feral children of Haworth: Charlotte and Emily BrontÃ«; Fragments of consciousness: the poems of Emily BrontÃ«; The rights of celibacy; Part Four: The Management of our Hearts: The two eternities: race and soul in Daniel Deronda; Justice and freedom: The Portrait of a Lady; Notes; Index.
’This is an unexpected kind of book. It is both interesting and unfashionable, strong-willed and unpolemical, confident and professional, and at the same time open to broad questions. While it is a collection of short essays on a wide variety of subjects, it has a coherence that, I am sure, William Myers was hoping his readers would find. However diverse the subject and different the judgments, these essays speak with a single voice...Students and scholars will be grateful to have it....’ Victorian Studies 'For Victorian scholars there is something wonderfully refreshing in watching a writer unapologetically engage the Victorians vitally on the issues that engage us at the moment, and yet, more unusually, find them able to out-argue and out-think the intellectual heroes of the twentieth century.' English at Leicester '...a set of brilliantly argued provacations to thought and rethinking.' Victorian Studies