Collations: Book Forum on Jonathan Farina’s Everyday Words and the Character of Prose in Nineteenth-Century Britain
V21 Collations: Book Forum welcomes Anna E. Clark, Tara K. Menon and Daniel Wright in conversation about Jonathan Farina’s insightful new work, Everyday Words and the Character of Prose in Nineteenth-Century Britain (Cambridge, 2017). Far from quotidian in its claims, Everyday Words explores what it regularly names as “rudimentary” and “common” words and phrases—“as if,” “but” and “that sort of thing” among them—that had profound implications in nineteenth-century literature’s elaboration of a peculiar and multifaceted conception of “character.” As Farina notes, “in ordinary usage character referred to the recognizable personality, psychology or morality, as Victorians would say, of real and fictional personages. But it also referred to an amorphous amalgam of Protestant, chivalric, and classical civic virtues that had been familiar aspects of the English ideal of gentlemanliness since the Reformation” (20). Examining the uniquely Victorian manifestations and transmutations of these ideas and ideals, Farina offers a welcome complement to modern literary criticism’s interest in realism’s representation of psychological interiority by exploring the multiple competing understandings of character that were less focused on the representation of people and their personhoods as they were on what he calls “a manner of being” (212). Character, in Farina’s astute expiation, appears to inhabit and also be a product of prose style that opens up multiple and, as he says, fungible modes of thinking, living and relating to one another. In exploring these varieties of character, Farina demonstrates the ways in which even the most ordinary terms or ideas need not be viewed as normative or prescriptive, but rather open up radical alternatives in worlds, including our own, where they are most needed.
|Reflection by Anna E. Clark||Reflection by Tara K Menon||Reflection by Daniel Wright|
Maeve Adams, curator and co-editor
Justin Raden, co-editor