A Choice Outstanding Academic Title for 2009

The Age of Eclecticism

Literature and Culture in Britain, 1815–1885

Christine Bolus-Reichert


Literary Criticism/European/English Literary Criticism/European/French
296 pp. 6x9

$35.95 paper 978-0-8142-5617-6
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Table of Contents


“Abstract, theoretical, conceptual, and drawing on a multitude of disparate sources, the study is informed, adroit, clear, forthright, and personable. . . . Generous, extended, instructive notes and an impressive list of well more than 200 works cited should delight serious researchers.” —Choice

“As befitting a work on eclecticism, Christine Bolus-Reichert’s remarkably erudite study is at once wide-ranging and rigorously argued. The fact that she ranges across the Channel to explore the influence of French thought on English critics and writers, and that she takes up visual culture and the critical discourse surrounding it as well as literature, only further increases the breadth of her study’s appeal.” —Irene Tucker, associate professor of English, University of California, Irvine

“In recent years there has been a resurgence of interest in formalism and aesthetics in Victorian studies, and The Age of Eclecticism, which links formal issues to the political, theoretical, and disciplinary ones that dominated the field for so long, is a valuable contribution. Christine Bolus-Reichert presents a strong argument that does original and valuable intellectual work.” —Sharon Marcus, professor of English and comparative literature, Columbia University

“The burden of the past” invoked by any discussion of eclecticism is a familiar aspect of modernity, particularly in the history of literature. The Age of Eclecticism: Literature and Culture in Britain, 1815–1885 by Christine Bolus-Reichert aims to reframe that dynamic and to place it in a much broader context by examining the rise of a manifold eclecticism in the nineteenth century. Bolus-Reichert focuses on two broad understandings of eclecticism in the period—one understood as an unreflective embrace of either conflicting beliefs or divergent historical styles, the other a mode of critical engagement that ultimately could lead to a rethinking of the contrast between creation and criticism and of the very idea of the original. She also contributes to the emerging field of transnational Victorian studies and, in doing so, finds a way to talk about a broader, post-Romantic nineteenth-century culture.

By reviving eclecticism as a critical term, Bolus-Reichert historicizes the theoretical language available to us for describing how Victorian culture functioned—in order to make the terrain of Victorian scholarship international and comparative and create a place for the Victorians in the genealogy of postmodernism. The Age of Eclecticism gives Victorianists—and other students of nineteenth-century literature and culture—a new perspective on familiar debates that intersect in crucial ways with issues still relevant to literature in an age of multiculturalism and postmodernism.

Christine Bolus-Reichert is associate professor of English at the University of Toronto.