'Strips of Essayism': Eliot, Hardy and Victorian Essay-Writing

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Taking its cue from James Wood’s now famous critique of the fetishizing of ‘information’ in British fiction (‘always breaking in to speak over their characters and tell us what to think, mummifying them somewhat in strips of essayism’), this essay takes a close look at two Victorian novelists famous for their creative deployment of what might be called an ‘essayistic’ narrative voice: George Eliot and Thomas Hardy. Tracing the roots of this voice in Victorian periodical culture—in particular, the tenure of Marian Evans/George Eliot at the helm of the Westminster Review—the essay explores the ways in which two contending senses of the ‘essayistic’, one based on contingency, the other on prescriptiveness, may often occupy the same space in both periodical essays and the fictions which dramatize and draw on them.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationOn Essays
Subtitle of host publicationMontaigne to the Present
EditorsThomas Karshan, Kathryn Murphy
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Print)978-0-19-870786-8
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • George Eliot
  • Thomas Hardy
  • Victorian periodical culture
  • essayism
  • print culture
  • narrative style
  • Westminster Review
  • essays

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