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Novel Violence

A Narratography of Victorian Fiction

Victorian novels, Garrett Stewart argues, hurtle forward in prose as violent as the brutal human existence they chronicle. In Novel Violence, he explains how such language assaults the norms of written expression and how, in doing so, it counteracts the narratives it simultaneously propels.

            Immersing himself in the troubling plots of Charles Dickens, Anne Brontë, George Eliot, and Thomas Hardy, Stewart uses his brilliant new method of narratography to trace the microplots of language as they unfold syllable by syllable. By pinpointing where these linguistic narratives collide with the stories that give them context, he makes a powerful case for the centrality of verbal conflict to the experience of reading Victorian novels. He also maps his finely wrought argument on the spectrum of influential theories of the novel—including those of Georg Lukács and Ian Watt—and tests it against Edgar Allan Poe’s antinovelistic techniques. In the process, Stewart shifts critical focus toward the grain of narrative and away from more abstract analyses of structure or cultural context, revealing how novels achieve their semantic and psychic effects and unearthing, in prose, something akin to poetry.

280 pages | 1 halftone | 6 x 9 | © 2009

Literature and Literary Criticism: General Criticism and Critical Theory


"Like the sentences that Stewart analyses so meticulously, his own writing is at once precisely structured and poetically evocative. . . . His titular violence is new in that it follows from the Romantic disillusionment identified by Georg Lukacs as the necessary state of the novel in its fall from epic fullness. Violence, in other words, is structured to the novel as a form."—Carolyn Lesjak, Times Higher Education Supplement

Carolyn Lesjak | THES

Table of Contents

Backlog \ Prologue

Fiction in its Prose


Narrative Intension                                                                                                  

1          The Omitted Person Plot

Little Dorrit’s Fault

2          Attention Surfeit Disorder

An “Interregnum” on Poescript vs. Plot

3           Mind Frames

Anne Brontë’s Exchange Economy

4          Of Time as a River

The Mill of Desire

5          Death Per Force

Tess’s Destined End

Epilogue / Dialogue

Novel Criticism as Media Study

Notes to Chapters



International Society for the Study of Narrative (ISSN): George and Barbara Perkins Prize

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