Fiction in the age of photography : the legacy of British realism.

By: Armstrong, Nancy, 1938-.
Material type: materialTypeLabelBookPublisher: Cambridge, Mass.; London : Harvard University Press, 2002Description: 352 p. : ill. ; 24cm.ISBN: 9780674008014.Subject(s): Photography | Literature and photography-Great Britain-History-20th century | Literature and photography-Great Britain-History-19th century | English fiction-20th century-History and criticism | English fiction-19th century-History and criticismDDC classification: 770.1ARM
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Enhanced descriptions from Syndetics:

Victorians were fascinated with how accurately photography could copy people, the places they inhabited, and the objects surrounding them. Much more important, however, is the way in which Victorian people, places, and things came to resemble photographs. In this provocative study of British realism, Nancy Armstrong explains how fiction entered into a relationship with the new popular art of photography that transformed the world into a picture. By the 1860s, to know virtually anyone or anything was to understand how to place him, her, or it in that world on the basis of characteristics that either had been or could be captured in one of several photographic genres. So willing was the readership to think of the real as photographs, that authors from Charles Dickens to the Brontës, Lewis Carroll, H. Rider Haggard, Oscar Wilde, D. H. Lawrence, E. M. Forster, and Virginia Woolf had to use the same visual conventions to represent what was real, especially when they sought to debunk those conventions. The Victorian novel's collaboration with photography was indeed so successful, Armstrong contends, that literary criticism assumes a text is gesturing toward the real whenever it invokes a photograph.

Includes bibliographical references and index.

Table of contents provided by Syndetics

  • Introduction: What Is Real in Realism? (p. 1)
  • 1 The Prehistory of Realism (p. 32)
  • 2 The World as Image (p. 75)
  • 3 Foundational Photographs: The Importance of Being Esther (p. 124)
  • 4 Race in the Age of Realism: Heathcliff's Obsolescence (p. 167)
  • 5 Sexuality in the Age of Racism: Hungry Alice (p. 201)
  • 6 Authenticity after Photography (p. 244)
  • Notes (p. 279)
  • Index (p. 332)

Reviews provided by Syndetics


Armstrong (Brown) gives new meaning to literary realism by emphasizing its reliance on visual representation. The author subverts long-held assumptions about realism as a mirror held up to the world and, instead, demonstrates how ways of seeing were determined, before and after photography, by lithographs, line drawings, illustrations, the camera obscura, panoramas, and cartes de visite. Such visual information provided a system of types, from the deviant or criminal (the poor, mad, or native) to the aristocrat, with his fine profile or her "salon" body. Photography made "the body legible." Writers responded to these cultural stereotypes when representing figures from the core or the periphery of British society. Armstrong's broad coverage ranges from Edmund Burke and 18th-century aesthetics to Woolf, Stieglitz, and modernism; the author also takes an in-depth and very provocative look at several texts, including Bleak House, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Wuthering Heights, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and King Solomon's Mines. As Ray Chow remarks, the book is "a model of critical imagination"--beautifully conceived, illustrated, and composed. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. S. Vander Closter; Rhode Island School of Design