Narrative Middles

Navigating the Nineteenth-Century British Novel

Edited by Caroline Levine and Mario Ortiz-Robles

Theory and Interpretation of Narrative


Literary Criticism/General; Literary Criticism/European /English
257 pp. 6x9

$29.95 paper 978-0-8142-5243-7
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Table of Contents


“[T]his collection brings fresh light to the criticism of the period, and it will be an important resource for those who study the period.” —Choice

“This work will be invaluable to scholars of the nineteenth-century novel, for several reasons. It contains essays from many leading voices in the field, all of whose contributions meet or exceed the high expectations readers have for their work. It addresses a relatively understudied, yet crucial, topic—the novel’s long, messy middle, which narrative theorists often neglect by focusing on the more privileged positions of beginning and end. The collection’s focus on the nineteenth century is apt, both because the middle became even more crucial (and lengthier) in this period, and because narrative theory has often privileged nineteenth-century realism as a source for its generalizations. In addition, the collection offers compelling new readings of many canonical Victorian novels, and I anticipate that instructors of graduate and advanced undergraduate courses will likely assign excerpts from this volume. (I know I will.) Although the essays in the collection tend to focus their arguments on specific novels rather than offering general theories, their claims do have broader implications and applicability, and the collection should attract the interest of narratologists.” —Monique R. Morgan, associate professor of English, McGill University

Narrative theorists have lavished attention on beginnings and endings, but they have too often neglected the middle of narratives. In this groundbreaking collection of essays, Narrative Middles: Navigating the Nineteenth-Century British Novel, nine literary scholars offer innovative approaches to the study of the underrepresented middle of the vast, bulky nineteenth-century multiplot novel. Combining rigorous formal analysis with established sociohistorical methods, these essays seek to account for the various ways in which the novel gave shape to British culture’s powerful obsession with middles. The capacious middle of the nineteenth-century novel provides ample room for intricately woven plots and the development of complex character systems, but it also becomes a medium for capturing, consecrating, and cultivating the middle class and its middling, middlebrow tastes as well as its mediating global role in empire. Narrative Middles explores these fascinating conjunctions in new readings of novels by Jane Austen, William Makepeace Thackeray, Anne Brontë, George Eliot, Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Henry James, and William Morris. Contributors: Amanda Claybaugh, Suzanne Daly, Amanpal Garcha, Amy King, Caroline Levine, Mario Ortiz-Robles, Kent Puckett, Hilary Schor, and Alex Woloch.

Caroline Levine is professor of English at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Mario Ortiz-Robles is associate professor of English at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.