Title

Interpretation, 1980 And 1880

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

Summer 2013

Published In

Victorian Studies

Abstract

This article reviews recent methodological interventions in the field of literary study, many of which take nineteenth-century critics, readers, or writers as models for their less interpretive reading practices. In seeking out nineteenth-century models for twenty-first-century critical practice, these critics imagine a world in which English literature never became a discipline. Some see these new methods as formalist, yet we argue that they actually emerge from historicist self-critique. Specifically, these contemporary critics view the historicist projects of the 1980s as overly influenced by disciplinary models of textual interpretation models that first arose, we show through our reading of the Jolly Bargemen scene in Charles Dickens's Great Expectations (1860 61), in the second half of the nineteenth century. In closing, we look more closely at the work of a few recent critics who sound out the metonymic, adjacent, and referential relations between readers, texts, and historical worlds in order sustain historicism's power to restore eroded meanings rather than reveal latent ones.