The Victorian Geopolitical Aesthetic: Realism, Sovereignty, and Transnational Experience

ISBN : 9780198728276

Lauren M. E. Goodlad
368 Pages
163 x 240 mm
Pub date
Feb 2015
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How did realist fiction alter in the effort to craft forms and genres receptive to the dynamism of an expanding empire and globalizing world? Do these nineteenth-century variations on the "geopolitical aesthetic" continue to resonate today? Crossing literary criticism, political theory, and longue duree history, The Victorian Geopolitical Aesthetic explores these questions from the standpoint of nineteenth-century novelists such as Wilkie Collins, George Eliot, Gustave Flaubert, and Anthony Trollope, as well as successors including E. M. Forster and the creators of recent television serials. By looking at the category of "sovereignty" at multiple scales and in diverse contexts, Lauren M. E. Goodlad shows that the ideological crucible for "high" realism was not a hegemonic liberalism. It was, rather, a clash of modern liberal ideals struggling to distintricate themselves from a powerful conservative vision of empire while striving to negotiate the inequalities of power which a supposedly universalistic liberalism had helped to generate. The material occasion for the Victorian era's rich realist experiments was the long transition from an informal empire of trade that could be celebrated as liberal to a neo-feudal imperialism that only Tories could warmly embrace. The book places realism's geopolitical aesthetic at the heart of recurring modern experiences of breached sovereignty, forgotten history, and subjective exile. The Coda, titled "The Way We Historicize Now", concludes the study with connections to recent debates about "surface reading", "distant reading", and the hermeneutics of suspicion.


1. Toward a Victorian Geopolitical Aesthetic
2. Imperial Sovereignty: the Limits of Liberalism and the Case of Mysore
3. Trollopian "Foreign Policy": Rootedness and Cosmopolitanism in the Mid- Victorian Global Imaginary
4. "India is a Bore": Imperial Governmentality in The Eustace Diamonds
5. "Dark, Like Me": Archeology and Erfahrung in Armadale and The Moonstone
6. The Adulterous Geopolitical Aesthetic: Romola contra Madame Bovary
7. Where Liberals Fear to Tread: E. M. Forster's Queer Internationalism 8. The Mad Men in the Attic: Seriality and Identity in the Narrative of Capitalist
8. The Mad Men in the Attic: Seriality and Identity in the Narrative of Capitalist Globalization
Coda: The Way We Historicize Now

About the author: 

Lauren M. E. Goodlad is the Kathryn Paul Professorial of English and Criticism & Interpretive Theory at the University of Illinois, Urbana. She is the author of Victorian Literature and the Victorian State: Character and Governance in a Liberal Society as well as the co-edtior of several books and special issues including Mad Men, Mad World: Sex, Politics, Style, and the 1960s and The Ends of History, a special issue of Victorian Studies. Her articles have appeared in journals including American Literary History, ELH, MLQ, Novel: A Forum on Fiction and PMLA.

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