Victorian Studies Vol. 55.4, Special Issue: The Ends of History
Co-editors: Lauren M. E. Goodlad and Andrew Sartori
Under the "New Historicism" literary scholars and historians occupied a relatively integrated conceptual space. More recently, however, many literary scholars have turned to form, description, "surface reading," and "distant reading" to combat a perceived overemphasis on historical context or ideological content. In so doing, some are inspired by the sociologist Bruno Latour, who has written copiously on the pitfalls of a "suspicious" mentality in publications including "Why Has Critique Run Out of Steam?"
The contributors to The Ends of History reflect on these currents from multiple perspectives, asking if the turn to new modes of reading is a turn away from history and, if so, with what consequences. Co-editors Lauren M. E. Goodlad (Illinois, Urbana) and Andrew Sartori (NYU) set up the issue in their introduction with a detailed account of the New Historicism and its aftermath which pays special attention to the influence of Latour. Rachel Buurma (Swarthmore) and Laura Heffernan (North Florida) coin the term "nineteenthcentricity" to articulate a new relation to the Victorian-era critical object. Ariana Reilly (Princeton) takes up George Eliot's Romola (1862-63) as a resource for present-day theorizing. Caroline Levine (Wisconsin, Madison) turns to networks to call out a reflexive nation-centrism that remains despite decades of cosmopolitan and postcolonial theory. Anthropologist Hylton White (Witwatersrand) argues that Latour's actor-network theory(ANT) fails to capture the social and temporal dimensions so critical to the Marxist theory of the fetish which ANT professes to supersede. The special issue closes with an afterword from Catherine Gallagher (California, Berkeley).
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Interpretation, 1980 and 1880
Review by: Rachel Sagner Buurma and Laura Heffernan