Anna E. Clark responds to Daniel Wright

Like Wright I have lately found my own and others’ sentences replete with the linguistic features Farina observes. “Turn” especially seems omnipresent, perhaps because so much of academic writing involves moving between categories of varying generality and particularity – the discourse, this argument; the Victorian novel; this Victorian novel. Such negotiations are also central to how we’ve thought about fictional character, as Farina points out in his chapter on Austen. Running through a series of arguments on generality, type, and the nature and function of fictional people, Farina declares that he agrees with all, “except to the extent that they delimit our connection to personages, excluding our affinities for the prose itself.” Farina convinces me that, in his words, “the poise between the particular and general constitutes the aesthetic of Austen’s prose and manner of interesting the reader” (60), but I wonder, again, why it’s so important to draw a line between character-as-prose and character-as-personage. I love Wright’s invocation of Wittgenstein’s “form of life” to describe the project of Everyday Words because it gets at the way Farina’s “epistemology of character” can read, quite brilliantly, as an epistemology of Victorian ontology. And if prose is a “manner of being” then surely it might speak to how the particularities of personhood can become (or maybe already are) forms of collective consciousness — for example, the way one writer’s tics can filter into the minds of others so effortlessly that it feels like they were there all along.

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