Matthew Reznicek responds to John Plotz
Firstly, I have to agree with Plotz about the lacuna of easily-accessible and affordable options for those of us who try to teach nineteenth-century Irish literature. And I find his position of Mullen’s argument against and between both James Murphy’s and Terry Eagleton’s insightful, focusing not on the category of the canonical or the category of tenant but instead on the commingling of anachronism and institutions. And I find myself thinking about the ways in which something like Charlotte Riddell’s A Struggle for Fame (1883), recently re-published by Tramp Press, might help illuminate the valuable arguments that Mullen’s Novel Institutions contributes to the field. The geographic shifts in A Struggle for Fame connect to, but not quite mirror, Plotz’s reference to the Caribbean colonies in so far as Riddell’s County Antrim is seen as both backward but also laying the groundwork for the internalization of institutionalism that Plotz also raises. While Riddell is far from a Zola-esque naturalist, her representation of a rural and Gothic County Antrim actually presages some of the Gothic representations of London in the novel, challenging the “backward” characterization. Additionally, the idea of institutions being “in and of us” seems most clearly replicated in the ways that Glen Westley navigates the external structures of publishing that mirror the internalized gendered norms of both geographies. The 1883 publication date of A Struggle for Fame seems to provide an important bridge to the New Woman writers like Sarah Grand and Katherine Cecil Thurston, who I think also struggle with the distinctions of “backward” and “modern,” while wrestling with the recognition of institutionalization.