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Telling Complexions The Nineteenth-Century English Novel and the Blush

by Mary Ann O'Farrell

Telling Complexions The Nineteenth-Century English Novel and the Blush Synopsis

In Telling Complexions Mary Ann O'Farrell explores the frequent use of the blush in Victorian novels as a sign of characters' inner emotions and desires. Through lively and textured readings of works by such writers as Jane Austen, Elizabeth Gaskell, Charles Dickens, and Henry James, O'Farrell illuminates literature's relation to the body and the body's place in culture. In the process, she plots a trajectory for the nineteenth-century novel's shift from the practices of manners to the mode of self-consciousness. Although the blush was used to tell the truth of character and body, O'Farrell shows how it is actually undermined as a stable indicator of character in novels such as Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, North and South, and David Copperfield. She reveals how these writers then moved on in search of other bodily indicators of mortification and desire, among them the swoon, the scar, and the blunder. Providing unique and creative insights into the constructedness of the body and its semiotic play in literature and in culture, Telling Complexions includes parallel examples of the blush in contemporary culture and describes ways that textualized bodies are sometimes imagined to resist the constraints imposed by such construction.

Telling Complexions The Nineteenth-Century English Novel and the Blush Press Reviews

As brightly as the blush that is its subject, this new study of the English novel blazons an extraordinary critical talent: even after we have absorbed her powerful sense that the skin is deeper, more densely lined with social text than we ever imagined, her prismatic sensibility-an exorbitant exercise of what Jane Austen, who would know, called `the right of a lively mind'-must remain one of a kind. -D. A. Miller

Book Information

ISBN: 9780822318958
Publication date: 14th February 1997
Author: Mary Ann O'Farrell
Publisher: Duke University Press
Format: Paperback / softback
Pagination: 192 pages
Categories: Literary studies: fiction, novelists & prose writers, Literary studies: c 1800 to c 1900 ,

About Mary Ann O'Farrell

Mary Ann O'Farrell is Associate Professor of English at Texas A&M University.

More About Mary Ann O'Farrell

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