Names and Stories

Names and Stories : Emilia Dilke and Victorian Culture

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"Emilia Dilke" (1840-1904) was christened Emily Francis Strong and known by her middle name throughout her childhood as the daughter of an army officer-cum-bank manager in Iffley, England, near Oxford, and her days as an art student in London. During her first marriage, she was Francis Pattison or Mrs. Mark Pattison, while her published works of art history and criticism were neutrally signed E. F. S. Pattison. Later, in the 1870s, she privately changed her first name to Emilia, a switch made public when she remarried in 1885. By this second nuptial union she became Lady Dilke, the famous intellectual, feminist, art critic, author, and, eventually, the active and popular President of the Women's Trade Union League for nearly twenty years. A rich work of biography, literary criticism, aesthetic history, and sociocultural inquiry, Names and Stories traces the life of this fascinating and remarkable woman as it was lived under many different appellations and guises. In doing so, the book investigates the full spectrum of nineteenth-century British thought and custom. By studying not only an individual life but the many stories that informed, determined, and challenged that life, author Kali Israel considers Dilke as both subject and object-author and character, player and pawn-in the Victorian world of which she was a part. As they are chronicled, explained, and contextualized in this book, these stories-however they were created, told, or interpreted-move through realms both historical and fictional. Israel's central character experienced not one but two highly visible marriages marked by rampant gossip, high-profile sex scandals, and inconclusive courtroom battles; was considered by some to be the model for the character of Dorothea in Eliot's Middlemarch; and similarly "appeared" in many other novels, plays, and even poems in her own time and up through the mid-twentieth century. Names and Stories is not a conventional "life and times" book, even though it recounts a birth-to-death adventure that is both unique and epochal. Rather, the work utilizes Dilke's myriad narratives as the means to broader critical, historical, and theoretical engagements. Debating the very nature of life-study and biography-writing, Israel employs a wide array of published and primary sources to argue that the "names and stories" of Emilia Dilke can help us understand key conflicts and tensions within Victorian Britain, as well as ongoing cultural arguments. This book thus examines several nineteenth-century pressure-points in this light, among them gender, representation, authority, authorship, knowledge, and political thought. Israel's contemporary and cross-disciplinary study also illuminates such broader themes as the family, the body, narrative, figuration, and historical writing and reading.show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 384 pages
  • 149.9 x 227.6 x 23.1mm | 557.93g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 1 b/w halftone
  • 0195158199
  • 9780195158199
  • 2,006,896

Review quote

"Confronts conventional ways to tell stories, to report biography, or to make meaning of a life." World History "Names and Stories is scholarly, ambitious in scope, rich in allusion, and likely to appeal to readers from different fields, including social historians, art historians, and scholars interested in Victorian periodicals or the theory of life-writing."-Journal of Modern History "Israel offers not only a theoretically rich analysis of her tasks but also a series of portraits and stories which accumulate without ever giving definitive shape to the Emilia Dilke that her culture and ours imagine her to be...a particularly innovative biography."-Studies in English Literature "Literary critics will find that Kali Israel's discussion of the exceptional Emilia Pattison provides new insights into the ways in which narratives inform the best type of cultural history. Israel's exemplary study reveals that material lives comprise both 'names' and 'stories', all involving conflicting kinds of personal, political, and social narration."-Joseph Bristow, University of California at Los Angeles "This is an impressive and intriguing post-modernist biographical disquisition providing much insight into the life and world of Francis Pattison/Emilia Dilke, art historian, trade unionist, fictionalist, and wife of two problematical Victorians, Mark Pattison and Sir Charles Dilke. The study is set within a rich palimpsest of nineteenth-century professional life and sexuality."-Peter Stansky, Stanford University "Israel has produced an unusual treatment of the life of Lady Emilia Dilke, an actor of importance and interest to scholars of Victorian high politics, art, social reform, and feminism. Much more than a 'life and times of...' work, this book demonstrates the integral, textual connections between the stories Dilke told about herself and others and the political, personal, private, cultural, and social life in Victorian Britain. Based upon a vast array of little-used primary materials, it offers an original and stimulating interpretation of both Emilia Dilke's life stories and the use of her life stories to achieve other ends. Israel is among a select group of scholars who seek to broaden and open the possibilities of biography. This is an impressive achievement."-Susan K. Kent, Professor of History, University of Colorado "Names and Stories is a fruitful alliance of detailed and generous primary-source research with sophisticated post-modern readings of text; of traditional and 'literary turn' history; and of biography and cultural history. Part of the new school of feminist life-story writing which refuses a continuous, unified recital of its subject, Israel's book on Emilia Dilke (in all her incarnations) is nonetheless wonderfully thorough at retrieving the thousands of texts (including nearly a dozen novels, beginning with Middlemarch) woven around her life. I read it with fascination."-Ellen Ross, Professor of History and Women's Studies, Ramapo College of New Jersey "This is a remarkable work of interdisciplinary scholarship. By exploring narrative representations of the life of the extraordinary Victorian Emilia Dilke, Professor Israel upsets what is often the most conservative form of history writing-biography. This is 'biographical' writing in a truly postmodern key. The author uses Dilke as a complex site for addressing important questions about gender, class, politics, social performance, the body, erotic desire, and how we make historical sense of such things. Kali Israel's study is controversial in the best sense, inviting readers to rethink methods of interpretation and understanding."-James Epstein, Professor of History, Vanderbilt University "The book is not merely biographical, but is rich in literary criticism, aesthetic history, and cultural inquiry as it investigates the full spectrum of nineteenth-century British thought and custom."-Michigan Alumnus Magazine "Kali Israel's Names and Stories contributes importantly to the nascent genre of historiographic biography....[Here], Dilke's life is treated for the first time as part of a sustained, historically aware, and critically self-conscious process of representation....Israel accomplishes her stated aims with clarity and often brilliance, using her study of Dilke's life to embark on carefully mapped excursions into various topics related to Victorian spiritual, cultural, and political life."-Victorian Studiesshow more

About Kali Israel

Kali Israel was educated at Lewis and Clark College and Rutgers University. She is Associate Professor of History at the University of Michigan.show more

Table of contents

Introduction: Genres of Life-Writing ; 1. One Not Being an Orphan ; 2. Pictures and Lessons ; 3. Making a Marriage ; 4. Bodies: Marriage, Adultery, and Death ; 5. The Resources of Style ; 6. French Vices ; 7. Renaissances ; Notes ; Identified Works of E. F. S. Pattison/Dilkeshow more

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