Mary Poovey’s Contribution in Rereading the Victorian Culture and Literatrue

Mary Poovey emphasizes not only in reading Victorian literature, but also in revising the Victorian culture as a whole. Poovey's Uneven Developments can be taken as the best example, where she has blended feminism, ideology, textualism, and historicism and this combination is moulded together from the traditions of Victorian studies, feminism, Foucault, the new historicism, and deconstruction which have become central to the Victorian studies at present.

Her argument is that, we are not only reevaluationg the Victorian literature rather we are revising the Victorian culture so it is under examination and that examination can be done from the perspectives of political position. We are reading  Victorian literature because it is a battlefield in which a new concept of text, self and social order is to be moved forward. To  be clearer, this essay should be studied and redefined from cultural perspectives, so  here, we are not reading literature only but it is the cultural studies.

She talks about gender issue too, while talking about "David Copperfield" and "Jane Eyre", she is very conscious about how women were treated medically of the "Caroline Norton matrimonial case", of "Florence Nightingale". She is not in favour of reading the text only, but in favour of using her reading of texts to show that gender is not a natural development of natural instincts but a construction of the representation itself and as such complexly unstable. She argues, in case of representation, that any representation is unstably constructed out of ideological forces related not only to gender but to class and race too. (We can compare her argument with Foucault’s arguments on representation).

The issue of "class, race and gender" has come in a package to the center of much of the dominant criticism of Victorian literature in recent years. Feminism keeps a deep interest in gender issues. Anyway, the new establishment of cultural criticism, emerging mainly from historical bases, literature, and philosophy; tries to take its object a  reconception of the nineteenth century in terms of its textual and material structuring of conflict about race, class and gender. History is itself a script to be reread, and the purpose of 'rereading it is to "denaturalize" categories we can see to have been constructed in the particular conditions of Victorian culture, with the view to change them in our own. Poovey's enthusiastic interest in writing across the generic boundaries is representative of new- historicist approaches.

Hence Poovey's work, Uneven Developments is itself a sign of the way to depict the change how literary studies become cultural studies.

Issues of Representation

The issues of representation can way out the new historicist approach.

Presentation: Reality prior, to be expressed in a literary text, reality before it is mediated through language; a priori expression.

Representation: Presentation of reality through discourses,record of reality through different variants i.e. language, literature etc. The facts can be distorted or deviated through representation, so  the representation can distort the authentic presentation. Poststructuralist says there is  no sense of re-representation. There is no gap between presentation and representation. Nothing is presented before language.

New historicist: Representation, is the verbal construct which is -mediated through power-position, or produced by certain ideology i.e. representation is ideological construct, the dbminant idea of time representation.

Regarding representation, the issue of 'realism in Victorian literature' is taken as a reference. Realism in Victorian literature is social-construct and all languages are fixed or constructed by the writers, Victorian literature is also the product of imagination not the 'true and exact date of a particular society.

The Victorian novels are not full of realities as such rather they are the verbal representation. All languages are fiction; realism itself is locked with representation. So to claim Victorian novels as realistic is merely a false assumption.

New historicism found following assumptions:

  • Intertextuallty between fiction and non-fiction
  • History-implicated in tradition of artistic imagination
  • Interplay between science and imaginative literature (Darwin's work as imaginative literature)