Amnesiac Selves

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

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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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Product details

  • Electronic book text | 309 pages
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • 0195349458
  • 9780195349450

Review quote

"Amnesiac Selves is a highly intelligent, stimulating work, which will keep readers in constant dialogue. Dames is a skilful close reader of texts, and moves deftly between individual analysis and general claim."--Sally Shuttleworth, Victorian Studies"If a major challenge of analyzing the Victorian novel is the sheer excess of material, Nicholas Dames's Amnesiac Selves...brilliantly argues that forgetting that detail is central not only to interpreting those novels but to the structure of the novels themselves."--Studies in English Literature1500-1900"Amnesiac Selves is an insightful book, and its insights are important. Nicholas Dames develops in this helpful volume a revisionist view of memory in the early Victorian novel, a view so innovative it not only illuminates our modern perspective of the Victorian mental landscape, it reshapes it.... This careful study deserves reading. Even if you don't agree as enthusiastically as I do with Nicholas Dames' analysis of Victorian views of memory from 1810 through 1870, I will be surprised if those views don't stimulate review of your personal world view. If the way we remember the past matters, Amnesiac Selves..., with its meticulously detailed revision of our picture of Victorian memory, bears thinking about."--Steven C. Walker, Studies in the Novel"[An] excellent study.... Dames provides a detailed and innovative account of the intersections between literary and psychological views of memory in the nineteenth century.... In charting the strategic and self-willed amnesias of the Victorians, Dames illuminates how nostalgia became a cultural habit and a way of reading the past that persists to this day."--Albion
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