Susan Bernstein

Email: sdbern@bu.edu

Alternate E-mail
sdbernst@wisc.edu
Susan Bernstein

Recent Books

  • Roomscape: Women Writers in the British Museum from George Eliot to Virginia Woolf cover

    Drawing on archival materials around this national library reading room, Roomscape is the first study that integrates documentary, theoretical, historical, and literary sources to examine the significance of this public interior space for women writers and their treatment of reading and writing spaces in literary texts. This book challenges an assessment of the Reading Room of the British Museum as a bastion of class and gender privilege, an image firmly established by Virginia Woolf’s 1929 A Room of One’s Own and the legions of feminist scholarship that upholds this spatial conceit.

    Susan David Bernstein argues not only that the British Museum Reading Room facilitated various practices of women’s literary traditions, she also questions the overdetermined value of privacy and autonomy in constructions of female authorship, a principle generated from Woolf’s feminist manifesto. Rather than viewing reading and writing as solitary, individual events, Roomscape considers the meaning of exteriority and the public and social and gendered dimensions of literary production.

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  • Victorian Vulgarity: Taste in Verbal and Visual Culture cover
    Bernstein (Editor), S., and E. B. M. (Editor). Victorian Vulgarity: Taste in Verbal and Visual Culture. Ashgate, 2009.

    Originally describing language use and class position, vulgarity became, over the course of the nineteenth century, a word with wider social implications. Variously associated with behavior, the possession of wealth, different races, sexuality and gender, the objects displayed in homes, and ways of thinking and feeling, vulgarity suggested matters of style, taste, and comportment. This collection examines the diverse ramifications of vulgarity in the four areas where it was most discussed in the nineteenth century: language use, changing social spaces, the emerging middle classes, and visual art. Exploring the dynamics of the term as revealed in dictionaries and grammars; Mayhew’s London Labour and the London Poor; fiction by Dickens, Eliot, Gissing, and Trollope; essays, journalism, art, and art reviews, the contributors bring their formidable analytical skills to bear on this enticing and divisive concept. Taken together, these essays urge readers to consider the implications of vulgarity’s troubled history for today’s writers, critics, and artists.

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  • Reuben Sachs, by Amy Levy cover
    Bernstein (Editor), S. Reuben Sachs, by Amy Levy. Broadview Press, 2006.

    Oscar Wilde wrote of this novel, “Its directness, its uncompromising truths, its depth of feeling, and above all, its absence of any single superfluous word, make Reuben Sachs, in some sort, a classic.” Reuben Sachs, the story of an extended Anglo-Jewish family in London, focuses on the relationship between two cousins, Reuben Sachs and Judith Quixano, and the tensions between their Jewish identities and English society. The novel’s complex and sometimes satirical portrait of Anglo-Jewish life, which was in part a reaction to George Eliot’s romanticized view of Victorian Jews in Daniel Deronda, caused controversy on its first publication.

    This Broadview edition prints for the first time since its initial publication in The Jewish Chronicle Levy’s essay “The Jew in Fiction.” Other appendices include George Eliot’s essay on anti-Jewish sentiment in Victorian England and a chapter from Israel Zangwill’s novel The Children of the Ghetto. Also included is a map of Levy’s London with landmarks from her biography and from the “Jewish geography” of Reuben Sachs.

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  • The Romance of a Shop, by Amy Levy cover
    Bernstein (Editor), S. The Romance of a Shop, by Amy Levy. Broadview Press, 2006.

    The Romance of a Shop is an early “New Woman” novel about four sisters, who decide to establish their own photography business and their own home in central London after their father’s death and their loss of financial security. In this novel, Amy Levy examines both the opportunities and dangers of urban experience for women in the late nineteenth century who pursue independent work rather than follow the established paths of domestic service. By outfitting her characters as photographers, Levy emphasizes the importance of the gendered gaze in this narrative of the modern city.

    This Broadview edition prints for the first time since the 1880s Levy’s essay on Christina Rossetti and a short story set in North London, both published in Oscar Wilde’s magazine The Woman’s World. Other appendices include poetry by Levy, Michael Field, Dollie Radford, and A. Mary F. Robinson, and essays on Victorian photography, literary realism, “the woman question” at the end of the nineteenth century, and the plight of women working in London.

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  • Confessional Subjects: Revelations of Gender and Power in Victorian Literature and Culture cover

    Susan Bernstein examines the gendered power relationships embedded in confessional literature of the Victorian period. Exploring this dynamic in Charlotte Bronta’s Villette, Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s Lady Audley’s Secret, George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda, and Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles, she argues that although women’s disclosures to male confessors repeatedly depict wrongdoing committed against them, they themselves are viewed as the transgressors. Bernstein emphasizes the secularization of confession, but she also places these narratives within the context of the anti-Catholic tract literature of the time. Based on cultural criticism, poststructuralism, and feminist theory, Bernstein’s analysis constitutes a reassessment of Freud’s and Foucault’s theories of confession. In addition, her study of the anti-Catholic propaganda of the mid-nineteenth century and its portrayal of confession provides historical background to the meaning of domestic confessions in the literature of the second half of the century.

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