English Literature

Download Amnesiac Selves: Nostalgia, Forgetting, and British Fiction, by Nicholas Dames PDF

By Nicholas Dames

With Joyce, Proust, and Faulkner in brain, now we have come to appreciate the radical as a sort with intimate ties to the impulses and techniques of reminiscence. This examine contends that this universal conception is an anachronism that distorts our view of the unconventional. in line with an research of consultant novels, Amnesiac Selves exhibits that the Victorian novel bears no such safe relation to reminiscence, and, actually, it attempts to conceal, steer clear of, and cast off remembering. Dames argues that the awesome shortage and exact unease of representations of remembrance within the nineteenth-century British novel sign an paintings shape suffering to outline and build new innovations of reminiscence. via putting nineteenth-century British fiction from Jane Austen to Wilkie Collins along a large choice of Victorian psychologies and theories of brain, Nicholas Dames conjures up a novelistic global, and a tradition, earlier than smooth memory--one devoted to a nostalgic evasion of precise recollection which our time has mostly forgotten.

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

Sample text

The key to this alchemy of trauma into nostalgia is, perhaps, the fact that for Austen’s readers these Price childhood memories are really no memories at all: they refer to nothing we have seen or heard in the text previously, and they do not attain enough of a level of specificity to disturb the sentence’s happy conclusion. What “pain” or “evil” the Prices previously suVered remains persistently—one might say tactically—enigmatic. Were any of these memories of pain to burst into explicitness (and it is diYcult enough to imagine what they might be, so heavy is the curtain hung over childhood in Austen), the sentence’s resolution might seem like bad faith or, at best, irony, but insofar as William and Fanny’s memories are so persistently vague, the pleasure they yield does not open itself up to suspicion.

The search for this answer takes me away from medicine and overseas travel and toward Austen’s novels, a corpus of work that initiates the revision of a pathologized memory linked to the perils of dislocation. In attempting to locate the moment and the site where Banks’s nostalgia becomes a contemporary, depathologized nostalgia—where, that is, the idea 24 amnesiac selves of a nostalgia that might be shared is born—I turn to a set of social novels from the early nineteenth century, at the very moment when the peak of an older nostalgia has passed.

The very process of becoming a nostalgic reader, as well as the concomitant blind spots and errors, is dramatized in her novels, and there is no better place to understand why the idea of “nostalgia” clings to Austen than her own technical and thematic choices concerning memory. Nostalgic remembrance begins in Austen, with Sense and Sensibility, as the object of representation; by the time of Persuasion it has become a principle of representation, so thoroughly embedded in her narrative practice that readers learn, perhaps, their nostalgia from these later texts—the very nostalgia that mobilizes the modern Austen critic.

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