Desire and Domestic Fiction by Nancy Armstrong
A Political History of the Novel

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Desire and Domestic Fiction argues that far from being removed from historical events, novels by writers from Richardson to Woolf were themselves agents of the rise of the middle class. Drawing on texts that range from 18th-century female conduct books and contract theory to modern psychoanalytic case histories and theories of reading, Armstrong shows that the emergence of a particular form of female subjectivity capable of reigning over the household paved the way for the establishment of institutions which today are accepted centers of political power. Neither passive subjects nor embattled rebels, the middle-class women who were authors and subjects of the major tradition of British fiction were among the forgers of a new form of power that worked in, and through, their writing to replace prevailing notions of "identity" with a gender-determined subjectivity. Examining the works of such novelists as Samuel Richardson, Jane Austen, and the Brontes, she reveals the ways in which these authors rewrite the domestic practices and sexual relations of the past to create the historical context through which modern institutional power would seem not only natural but also humane, and therefore to be desired.

About Nancy Armstrong

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Nancy Armstrong is chair of the English department and Nancy Duke Lewis Professor of Comparative Literature, English, Modern Culture and Media, and Gender Studies at Brown University. She is the author of several books including, Fiction in the Age of Photography: The Legacy of British Realism and Desire and Domestic Fiction: A Political History of the Novel. Nancy Armstrong is the Nancy Duke Lewis Professor at Brown University, a position she has held since 1992. She teaches in the departments of Comparative Literature, English, and Modern Culture and Media, as well as in the Gender Studies Program, and is currently serving as Chair of the English department. She has authored any number of articles on 18th and 19th-century fiction and culture, feminism, and cultural theory. She has served as Managing Editor of the journal NOVEL since coming to Brown. In addition to two collections of essays, she has published three books: Desire and Domestic Fiction: A Political History of the Novel (Oxford UP, 1987), The Imaginary Puritan: Literature, Intellectual Labor, and the Origins of Personal Life, with Leonard Tennenhouse (U California P, 1992), and Fiction in the Age of Photography: The Legacy of British Realism (Harvard UP, 1999).
Published May 7, 1987 by Oxford University Press. 324 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, Science & Math, History, Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction

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