The Middle Modernity Group is pleased to announce Professor Elsie Michie’s upcoming talk, “The Trollopes’ Serial Family Plots.” We hope to see you on Thursday, November 14 at 4:00 p.m. in Helen C. White 7191 for this exciting event. Below, you will find a more detailed description of Professor Michie’s lecture:
This lecture argues that when read as a series Frances Trollope’s One Fault (1840) and Anthony Trollope’s He Knew He Was Right (1869) allow us to grasp key shifts in the conception of human relations and identity that took place in the middle decades of the nineteenth-century. Both novels depict the collapse of a marriage, where questions of dominance and submission fracture the possibility of harmonious relations between husband and wife. Both also reference Reform Acts, Frances’s that of 1832, Anthony’s that of 1864. If we read these novels serially, rather than through the more familiar model of influence, we see the terms that appear in one reflected and transformed in the other. As the titles of the two suggest, Frances’s novel makes visible the emphasis on faults in Anthony’s, and his makes visible the emphasis on rights in hers. Read as iterations of each other, the two allow us to trace the shifts that took place in legal thinking about matrimonial cruelty and psychological responsibility over the middle decades of the nineteenth century and to link that narrative about marriage, so central to the Victorian novel, to the evolving discourse about human rights associated with reform.