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Disorienting Fiction : The Autoethnographic Work of Nineteenth-Century British Novels - James Buzard

Disorienting Fiction

The Autoethnographic Work of Nineteenth-Century British Novels

Paperback Published: 3rd April 2005
ISBN: 9780691095554
Number Of Pages: 336

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This book gives an ambitious revisionist account of the nineteenth-century British novel and its role in the complex historical process that ultimately gave rise to modern anthropology's concept of culture and its accredited researcher, the Participant Observer. Buzard reads the great nineteenth-century novels of Charles Dickens, Charlotte Bronte, George Eliot, and others as "metropolitan autoethnographies" that began to exercise and test the ethnographic imagination decades in advance of formal modern ethnography--and that did so while focusing on Western European rather than on distant Oriental subjects.

"Disorienting Fiction" shows how English Victorian novels appropriated and anglicized an autoethnographic mode of fiction developed early in the nineteenth century by the Irish authors of the "National Tale" and, most influentially, by Walter Scott. Buzard demonstrates that whereas the fiction of these non-English British subjects devoted itself to describing and defending (but also inventing) the cultural autonomy of peripheral regions, the English novels that followed them worked to imagine limited and mappable versions of English or British culture in reaction against the potential evacuation of cultural distinctiveness threatened by Britain's own commercial and imperial expansion. These latter novels attempted to forestall the self-incurred liabilities of a nation whose unprecedented reach and power tempted it to universalize and export its own customs, to treat them as simply equivalent to a globally applicable civilization. For many Victorian novelists, a nation facing the prospect of being able to go and to exercise its influence just about anywhere in the world also faced the danger of turning itself into a cultural nowhere. The complex autoethnographic work of nineteenth-century British novels was thus a labor to disorient or de-globalize British national imaginings, and novelists mobilized and freighted with new significance some basic elements of prose narrative in their efforts to write British culture into being.

Sure to provoke debate, this book offers a commanding reassessment of a major moment in the history of British literature.

Industry Reviews

"Most exciting to a student of the novel ... is the book's fresh interpretation of the genre's history in the nineteenth century, the explanation of many of its salient formal features as parts of a cultural project heretofore unnoticed."--Catherine Gallagher, Novel

Acknowledgmentsp. vii
Cultures and Autoethnographyp. 1
Uneven Developments
''Culture,'' circa 2000 and 1900p. 3
Ethnographic Locations and Dislocationsp. 19
The Fiction of Autoethnographyp. 37
British Fictions of Autoethnography, Circa 1815 and 1851p. 61
Translation and Tourism in Scott's Waverleyp. 63
Anywhere's Nowhere
Bleak House as Metropolitan Autoethnographyp. 105
Charlotte Bronte's English Booksp. 157
Identities, Locations, and Mediap. 159
An chantillon of Englishness
The Professorp. 180
The Wild English Girl
Jane Eyrep. 196
National Pentecostalism
Shirleyp. 218
Outlandish Nationalism
Villettep. 245
Around and After 1860p. 277
Eliot, Interruptedp. 279
Ethnography as Interruption
Morris's News from Nowherep. 299
Indexp. 315
Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.

ISBN: 9780691095554
ISBN-10: 0691095558
Audience: Tertiary; University or College
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 336
Published: 3rd April 2005
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 23.5 x 15.2  x 1.91
Weight (kg): 0.46