Amnesiac Selves: Nostalgia, Forgetting, and British Fiction, 1810-1870

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Oxford University Press, Jun 14, 2001 - Literary Criticism - 312 pages
With Joyce, Proust, and Faulkner in mind, we have come to understand the novel as a form with intimate ties to the impulses and processes of memory. This study contends that this common perception is an anachronism that distorts our view of the novel. Based on an investigation of representative novels, Amnesiac Selves shows that the Victorian novel bears no such secure relation to memory, and, in fact, it tries to hide, evade, and eliminate remembering. Dames argues that the notable scarcity and distinct unease of representations of remembrance in the nineteenth-century British novel signal an art form struggling to define and construct new concepts of memory. By placing nineteenth-century British fiction from Jane Austen to Wilkie Collins alongside a wide variety of Victorian psychologies and theories of mind, Nicholas Dames evokes a novelistic world, and a culture, before modern memory--one dedicated to a nostalgic evasion of detailed recollection which our time has largely forgotten.

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Contents

Reading Nostalgia
3
CHAPTER 1 Austens Nostalgics
20
Phrenology Physiognomy and Memory in Charlotte Brontė
76
Dickens Thackeray and MidCentury Fictional Autobiography
125
Collins Sensation Forgetting
167
Eliots Romola and Amnesiac Histories
206
Nostalgic Reading
236
Notes
243
Bibliography
281
Index
293
Copyright

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Page 7 - All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.
Page 69 - I must believe that I was right, much as I suffered from it, that I was perfectly right in being guided by the friend whom you will love better than you do now. To me, she was in the place of a parent. Do not mistake me, however. I am not saying that she did not err in her advice. It was, perhaps, one of those cases in which advice is good or bad only as the event decides; and for myself, I certainly never should, in any circumstance of tolerable similarity, give such advice.
Page 125 - I don't understand you," said Alice. "It's dreadfully confusing!" "That's the effect of living backwards," the Queen said kindly; "it always makes one a little giddy at first ..." "Living backwards!" Alice repeated in great astonishment. "I never heard of such a thing!" ". . . But there's one great advantage in it, that one's memory works both ways.
Page 69 - I have been thinking over the past, and trying impartially to judge of the right and wrong, I mean with regard to myself; and I must believe that I was right, much as I suffered from it, that I was perfectly right in being guided by the friend whom you will love better than you do now.
Page 53 - If any one faculty of our nature may be called more wonderful than the rest, I do think it is memory. There seems something more speakingly incomprehensible in the powers, the failures, the inequalities of memory, than in any other of our intelligences. The memory is sometimes so retentive, so serviceable, so obedient: at others, so bewildered and so weak; and at others again, so tyrannic, so beyond control! We are, to be sure, a miracle every way; but our powers of recollecting and of forgetting...
Page 283 - The Principles of Mental Physiology. With their Applications to the Training and Discipline of the Mind, and the Study of its Morbid Conditions.
Page 158 - ... some words to him, which were so kind, and said in a voice so sweet, that the boy, who had never looked upon so much beauty before, felt as if the touch of a superior being or angel smote him down to the ground, and kissed the fair protecting hand as he knelt on one knee. To the very last hour of his life, Esmond remembered the lady as she then spoke and looked, the rings on her fair hands, the very scent of her robe, the beam of her eyes lighting up with surprise and kindness, her lips blooming...
Page 126 - Faltering and faint, and ignorant of the road : Then, reascending the bare common, saw A naked pool that lay beneath the hills, The beacon on the summit, and, more near, A girl, who bore a pitcher on her head, And seemed with difficult steps to force her way Against the blowing wind.
Page 72 - The last few hours were certainly very painful," replied Anne; " but when pain is over, the remembrance of it often becomes a pleasure. One does not love a place the less for having suffered in it, unless it has been all suffering, nothing but suffering, which was by no means the case at Lyme. We were only in anxiety and distress during the last two hours, and previously there had been a great deal of enjoyment.
Page 130 - I shall be pardoned for calling it by so harsh a name as madness, when it is considered, that opposition to reason deserves that name, and is really madness ; and there is scarce a man so free from it, but that if he should always, on all occasions, argue or do as in some cases he constantly does would not be thought filler lor Bedlam than civil conversation.

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