A Choice Outstanding Academic Title for 2002

Telling Tales

Gender and Narrative Form in Victorian Literature and Culture

Elizabeth Langland

Theory and Interpretation of Narrative



192 pp. 6x9

$47.95 cloth 978-0-8142-0905-9
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Telling Tales offers new and original readings of novels by Charlotte Brontë, Anne Brontë, Thomas Hardy, Margaret Oliphant, and Mary Elizabeth Braddon. It also presents new archival material on the lives and stories of working-class women in Victorian Britain. Finally, it sets forth innovative interpretations of the complex ways in which gender informs the abstract cultural narratives—like space, aesthetic value, and nationality—through which a populace comes to know and position itself.

Focusing on the interrelations of form, gender, and culture in narratives of the Victorian period, Telling Tales explores the close interplay between gender as manifest in specific literary works and gender as manifest in Victorian culture. The latter does not reflect a shift away from form toward culture, but rather a steady concern of form-in-culture. Reading and analyzing Victorian novels provides an education for reading and interpreting the broader culture.

The book’s several chapters explore and pose answers to important questions about the impact of gender on narrative in Victorian culture: How do women writers respond to themes and narrative structures of precursor male writers? What are the very real differences that shape a newly emerging tradition of female authorship? How does gender enter into the determination of aesthetic value? How does gender enter into the national imaginary—the idea of Englishness? In exploring these key concerns, Telling Tales establishes a broad terrain for future inquiries that take gender as an organizing term and principle for analysis of narratives in all periods.

Elizabeth Langland is professor in the College of Letters and Science, University of California–Davis.