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Interpretation, 1980 and 1880
Victorian Studies (2013)
  • Rachel S Buurma, Swarthmore College
  • Laura Heffernan, University of North Florida
This article reviews recent methodological interventions in the field of literary study, many of which take nineteenth-century critics, readers, or writers as models for their less interpretive reading practices. In seeking out nineteenth-century models for twenty-first-century critical practice, these critics imagine a world in which English literature never became a discipline. Some see these new methods as formalist, yet we argue that they actually emerge from historicist self-critique. Specifically, these contemporary critics view the historicist projects of the 1980s as overly influenced by disciplinary models of textual interpretation—models that first arose, we show through our reading of the Jolly Bargemen scene in Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations (1860–61), in the second half of the nineteenth century. In closing, we look more closely at the work of a few recent critics who sound out the metonymic, adjacent, and referential relations between readers, texts, and historical worlds in order sustain historicism’s power to restore eroded meanings rather than reveal latent ones.
  • disciplinary history
Publication Date
Summer 2013
Citation Information
Rachel S Buurma and Laura Heffernan. "Interpretation, 1980 and 1880" Victorian Studies Vol. 44 Iss. 4 (2013)
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